Pet therapy is quickly becoming a popular treatment for seniors, for both physical and mental wellness, particularly for those living in a memory care community. Animals love unconditionally, which is why cuddling up with a furry friend is a great way to raise spirits and better the health of yourself or your loved one.
What is Pet Therapy, Exactly?
There are a variety of ways to engage in a little pet therapy, either through owning a pet yourself, visitation therapy, or animal-assisted therapy. Visitation therapy is a specialized program where trained dogs, cats, and farm animals stop by a senior community to visit. Animal-assisted therapy is a rehab method in which a senior is paired with a highly trained animal to promote recovery and build confidence. In both visitation therapy and animal-assisted therapy, the animals have been socialized, received obedience training, and been prepped to interact with seniors.
There are a number of mental health benefits to using pet therapy. Studies show that just 15 minutes with an animal can decrease stress and increase serotonin levels. These benefits can help fight depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness, while improving self-esteem. Pet visitation therapy is a great senior activity that can greatly improve overall health and happiness.
The physical benefits of pet ownership or having a pet-assisted rehab partner can be tremendous, as well. Not only do pets help lower blood pressure, their presence can inspire more movement in seniors. Seniors often want to take dogs for walks and toss a ball for them, and they want to pick up, hold, and play with cats – all leading to healthy physical movement.
How Pet Therapy Helps Memory Care Communities
Research has also shown pet therapy can be effective in improving cognitive function in people with dementia. Having an animal around stimulates people with dementia mentally, helping them open up and interact with others more. This can lead them to maintaining and even building new connections, which helps improve their overall happiness. And happiness is a major factor in reducing the progression of dementia!
Does pet therapy sound like a good choice for your loved one? We would love to discuss how pet therapy is used at our communities. Contact a Careage community near you to learn more.