Pet Therapy Assisting Seniors At Home

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Pet Therapy Can Help Seniors Living At Home Alone

Older adults living at home by themselves can get lonely, sad, bored, or angry.  If you have a pet, you may understand how much better that furry bundle of joy can make you feel when you’re having a bad day. They can have the same effect on seniors living at home alone. In fact, pet therapy has become increasingly popular, and with good reason. 

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

Research shows that engaging older adults in pet therapy has many different benefits. Some of the benefits you, your family or even your caregivers should know about are:

  • Better Mood: Studies show that pets help patients engage more with other people. They also seem to put them in a better mood. This is an important benefit for anyone at a higher risk for depression.
  • Calming: Being with animals has been proven to make people calmer. In fact, scientists have found that it even lowers blood pressure.
  • Fewer Challenging Behaviors: Having a pet in the home has been associated with a decrease in difficult behaviors, like aggression and agitation.
  • Better Nutrition: In one study, researchers put aquariums in a long-term care facility for seniors with dementia. They found that the residents ate more and needed fewer nutritional supplements.
  • More Physical Activity: When exposed to pets, seniors  tend to move around more. They might follow the pet around, throw a ball for a dog, or wave a toy for a cat to chase.

Types of Pet Therapy

There are lots of different kinds of animal-assisted therapy programs. They use all kinds of animals, including  dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and even horses! Some pets used for therapy live in long-term care facilities. Others come to organizations to visit.

Another way caregivers can expose older adults to pet therapy is through pets in the home. If you decide to add a pet, please keep in mind that adopting a pet is for the life of the pet.  Consider adopting an older pet that is lower energy and would love to do nothing more than just cuddle!   Also when choosing a pet, keep in mind that it will require some extra work since an older adult may be unable to care for the pet on their own. If you know of a senior that desires to stay in their own home and needs assistance caring for themselves and their pet then there are resources out there to help keep  both the senior and their pet together. For older adults that desire to age in place then home care may be the perfect solution.  Many home care agencies, such as Assisting Hands Serving Reston & Northern Fairfax County can care for your dog or other pet to include their walking and feeding.  There are also great dog daycare facilities in the area.  My favorite is Healthy Hound Playground in Sterling, Virginia which provides boarding, grooming and daycare for you playful pup!