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The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors with Mobility or Cognitive Issues

Research has shown that pet therapy is an effective way to improve the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of seniors with mobility or cognitive issues. It has been shown that spending time with animals significantly reduces feelings of desperation and loneliness, lowers blood pressure, and helps to control cholesterol levels. This article describes how pet therapy works and what are its main benefits.

benefits of pet therapy for seniors

What is Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy is an interactive form of treatment that uses therapy animals, usually dogs or cats, to help the patients with difficult emotional, social, or even physical issues:

  • Physical Activity: Seniors are more likely to walk or do light exercise when they have pets, particularly dogs, which is important for their health.
  • Social Contact: Having pets often lessens the feelings of isolation
  • Emotional Support: Animals can help seniors feel less alone and depressed.

Research has also supported several physiological benefits such as decreased risk of heart attacks in patients owning a dog, increased mental health, and energy, reduced pain and anxiety, and improved breathing after spending time with dogs.

How Pet Therapy Works?

  • Improving Mobility: Seniors who own pets, particularly dogs, are more likely to walk and exercise regularly, which is important for controlling age-related diseases like high cholesterol and diabetes. It is also highly beneficial for seniors recovering from surgery since increased physical activity decreases postoperative complications.
  • Psychological Benefits: Pets improve our mood by releasing a feel-good hormone called oxytocin, which reduces our feelings of loneliness. This is very important for seniors who live alone.
  • Social Interaction: Having a pet can increase our social interactions. Dog owners frequently socialize with others on walks and in several dog parks.
  • Advantages for Dementia Patients: Research has shown that spending time with animals can reduce anxiety in those suffering from dementia.

What To Consider Before Getting a Dog?

Even though having a pet can improve the well-being of a patient, it's necessary to acknowledge that owning a pet is a huge responsibility. It is important to evaluate whether the senior will be able to take care of the animal. It is important to consider:

  1. The ability to take care of the pet.
  2. Selecting a pet whose energy levels and activity requirements are appropriate for the senior's capabilities.
  3. Whether the senior should adopt a dog or rather just attend assisted pet therapy services without the added responsibility –  this is a safer and more practical alternative for patients with significant mobility or cognitive impairments.

Assisted Pet Therapy Services

Several home care providers offer assisted pet therapy, which has the benefits of pet ownership, but it doesn't involve a long-term commitment and the responsibility that is brought on. These services may involve going to nursing homes, individuals' homes, or assisted living facilities and offering interactions with therapy animals. Research has shown that their well-being can be improved by interactions that are as brief as 15 minutes.

Pet therapy offers us a new approach to assisting seniors with cognitive and mobility issues, by taking care of both their physical and emotional needs. This kind of therapy may become an everyday part of senior care as we continue to use and learn more about it and improve their quality of life.

Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors
Cherniack, E. P., & Cherniack, A. R. (2014): “The benefit of pets and animal-assisted therapy to the health of older individuals.” Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, 2014, 1–9. 
Gee, N. R., Mueller, M. K., & Curl, A. L. (2017). “Human–animal interaction and older adults: An overview”. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

Founded in 2008, Ezra Home Care offers live-in home care, 24-hour care, and hourly senior care.
All our caregivers are state-certified and provide services like personal carehousekeepingcompanionship, help with medication, and transportation assistance. We've spent 15 years refining our caregiver selection process to ensure families' peace of mind. Reach out for details and quotes.

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