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Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors and Their Caregivers

Marketing Intern | Shield HealthCare
12/08/17  12:54 PM PST
Pet Therapy

Human-animal bonding can increase happiness and socialization while decreasing blood pressure and potential depression and stress. There are many benefits of pet therapy for seniors and their caregivers.

What is Pet Therapy?

This type of therapy is the controlled interaction between a trained service pet and a human. The person acts as the animal’s handler, unless (s)he is incapable of caring for it. In that case, another person such as a caregiver takes on the handler role, and the animal provides assistance in helping the individual cope and/or recover from a health problem or emotional/mental disorder.

How Does it Help?

Scientific research has demonstrated that animal-human interaction is linked to healthy aging. This research shows that there is an association between an attachment to a pet and lessened depression among elderly people.

For those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other similar diseases, research has shown that animal-human connection and interaction plays a vital role in improving the quality of life for the person as well as the caregiver. Trained therapy dogs can greatly benefit those suffering with Alzheimer’s by doing tasks like fetching newspapers, shoes, and even medication. These dogs are also capable of reducing and alleviating agitated behaviors as well as improving interactions between patients and others.

Elderly folks often feel isolated when living in a facility, or even when living at home. Socialization with a therapy animal can boost mood, lower the stress hormone, cortisol, and increase the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Handling a therapy pet can also increase physical activity which is important for maintaining the health of seniors.

Animals in therapy bring major benefits to caregivers as well. Handling and being around a therapy animal of any species, whether it be a horse, a bird, or a dog can reduce physiological stress which is often a result of constantly caring for another person. If you are a caregiver, you may feel alone and isolated from family and friends. In fact, studies have found that caregivers are actually two times more likely than the general public to develop a chronic illness due to the continuous stress of caring for a patient.

Here are some organizations where you can locate pet therapy animals and handlers, or participate in therapy pet events:

Pet Partners

  • This organization trains and screens volunteers that own pets so they can visit people in hospitals, clinics, hospice centers, schools and other facilities. This organization offers information and resources for those with disabilities and friends and family of the patient who may be considering obtaining a service animal.

Pets for the Elderly Foundation

  • This foundation matches seniors with dogs and cats by underwriting pet adoptions.

Therapy Dogs Inc.

  • This is a national registrar with listings of over 12,000 handler and dog teams across the US and Canada. This organization provides registration, support and insurance for volunteers who want to offer pet therapy services to others.

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