Spotlight On Therapy Pets: What They Can Do For Seniors

By Ruby Cemental

Therapy pets are pets that are trained to interact and are able to provide a favorable, loving interaction with people. These animals (most commonly dogs) are able to interact with people in adverse situations. Seniors can benefit in many ways from interacting with therapy pets. Therapy pets also have the ability to simply brighten your seniors day and help lift their mood. 

Therapy Pets Provide Medical Benefits

Therapy pets will do a lot more than just make senior hospitals, retirement homes, or nursing facilities a happier place. Providing regular interactions with therapy animals can have many medical benefits to seniors as well. The effects of therapy dogs/cats have shown in many studies to have positive effects, such as:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Releasing calming endorphins (oxytocin)
  • Lowering a person's levels of physical pain
  • Providing an automatic relaxation response

Mental Benefits of Pets

In addition to calming and relaxing a patient, the mental benefits of being consistently surrounded by animals are also many. Being around animals consistently can help:

  • Lift spirits/avoid depression
  • Lower feelings of isolation/loneliness
  • Encourage communication
  • Provide comfort
  • Increase socialization
  • Decrease boredom
  • Lessen anxiety

Overall, therapy pets have a great way of connecting with people and making them feel better, no matter what situation the person is in. That "lift" in spirits can really help seniors feel better especially if they are lonely or going through medical treatments that are causing pain/discomfort at the time. Even seniors who live independently but live alone and may not socialize regularly will benefit from the interaction with owning pets or having therapy animals visit their residence

Even seniors who live independently but live alone and may not socialize regularly will benefit from the interaction with owning pets or having therapy animals visit their residence. This is especially true if they are not out all that often, and do not have a lot of social interactions with others.

Registering a Therapy Pet

For a pet to be considered an official "therapy pet" they should be registered as such. Organizations such as the National Service Animal Registry (NSAR) that registers both service animals and therapy pets. They even offer memberships to the NSAR Therapy Animal Team. Many facilities will require registration with a nationally recognized organization such as NSAR to allow therapy pets into the facility to visit with patients or residents. This is true of most hospitals, retirement homes, nursing facilities, or anywhere else that people may be living or staying temporarily or permanently to ensure that the pets are fit to interact with the people they will be providing therapy for. This ensures safety for both the patients or residents and the pets and their owners. 

As you are learning to deal with the changes that aging can bring, be patient with yourself, patient with your loved one, seek advice and answers to questions, and remember you are not in this alone. Contact a Caring Senior Service team member today!

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