Pet Therapy in Assisted Living: A Pawsitive Program
Most of us have had at least one pet in our lifetimes, and we loved the animal as much as we love our own family. There are few things greater than your dog or cat greeting you at the end of a long day, and snuggling up to you, asking to be petted. Seniors in assisted living who had pets before they moved miss that interaction.
That’s where pet therapy comes in. Therapy-trained animals go through a basic obedience course, must be well socialized, and understand how to gently interact with seniors. This includes seniors with limited mobility or balance issues.
Types of Pet Therapy
There are a few types of pet therapy, some more intensive than others. When an animal works intensively one-on-one with someone, that is animal-assisted therapy. Examples are guide dogs, emotional support animals, and animals a medical facility may use to help a patient during treatment. The dog or other animal helps their human gain confidence and navigate life.
Visitation therapy is the other main form of pet therapy. This is the most common form of pet therapy in assisted living. Local individuals and groups who have animals trained in pet therapy will visit hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living centers to provide many benefits.
You may even be able to schedule a home visit with some groups. You can also sign up for pet therapy training with your own dog as the student, provided they are a quick learner and well-behaved.
While pet therapy animals are most frequently dogs, other animals can be useful for this purpose as well, including:
• Miniature horses
• Llamas and alpacas
• Guinea pigs
The key is that the animal must be well trained, have a good temperament, and be people-friendly. No standoffish feline need apply. Smaller animals are easier to transport and bring inside an assisted living facility, of course.
Benefits of Pet Therapy in Assisted Living
There are quite a few benefits of pet therapy for assisted living residents and staff. Pet visitation therapy affects both physical and mental health. Research into these effects shows the specific benefits include:
• Lower heart rate
• Reduced blood pressure
• Lower stress levels
• Helps ease chronic pain due to the release of endorphins
• Reduces loneliness
• Brightens mood – studies show that just 15 minutes with a pet can raise serotonin levels in the brain.
• Decreases feelings of isolation and alienation
• Reduced boredom
• Reduced agitation
If your senior had a pet that they could no longer care for, or couldn’t bring with them to assisted living, make sure the facility where they stay has a pet therapy program. If they don’t already, encourage them to add pet visitation therapy to their list of activities. The benefits are enormous.
Pet Therapy at Broad Creek Manor
At Broad Creek Manor, we’ve recently partnered with St. John’s Lutheran Church of Sweet Air and their Caring Paws Therapy Dog Ministry Program, as well as Amy Norman Owens and her therapy dog Blu. Our residents eagerly look forward to our pet visitation therapy days, and enjoy petting and just interacting with these well-trained canine companions.
We know many of our residents miss their own pets from years gone by, and we also know the many benefits of pet therapy in assisted living. It’s just one of the many ways we strive to improve the quality of life for our residents.
Schedule a Tour Today
If you or a loved one are looking into assisted living in Harford County MD, we hope you’ll consider us. We’re conveniently located in Whiteford, at the mouth of Broad Creek, and with views of the Susquehanna River. Our small residential assisted living facility has a great resident-to-staff ratio, and we treat our residents like family.
Call 410-452-0004 or use our contact form to ask questions and schedule a tour. You can also now schedule facility tours via our Facebook Page. We look forward to meeting you!