What You Should Know About Pet Therapy
The companionship of a pet can be invaluable, bringing purpose and engagement for people of all ages, especially for seniors. Spending time with a pet is a powerful way to combat loneliness and isolation, bringing comfort and companionship while reducing stress and promoting overall health and wellness.
Research has shown that pet owners are generally less likely to feel lonely, visit the doctor less often, take less medication, recover from illness faster, and cope better with stress. One study found that spending just fifteen minutes with an animal initiates hormonal changes in the brain, dropping stress levels (cortisol hormone) and increasing serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone) levels.
Emotional Benefits of Pet Therapy
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Improved social skills
- Reduced risk of depression
- Decreased levels of anxiety
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- An increased ability to show gentleness and caring
Physical Benefits of Pet Therapy
- Increased levels of exercise
- Increased mobility while caring for a pet
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced depression, stress, and anxiety levels
- Improved physical abilities with increased activity levels
Mental Benefits of Pet Therapy
- Improved mental stimulation
- Increased socialization
- Strengthened ability to plan for pet’s care
- Improved sense of purpose and meaning
- Memory stimulation
- Calming negative behaviours associated with dementia
Animals can help improve socialization. Pets listen without judgment and give unbiased affection, especially when a senior may desire to share the thoughts that they may not be comfortable telling family or friends.
Having an animal in a senior’s life can help improve their well-being and give new meaning to their life. Due to the numerous health benefits therapy animals provide, many assisted living facilities are starting to include pet therapy in their regular senior care programs. Being around animals makes people feel better, healthier, and happier.
By Sherry Dumont, RN
ARTACares is provided by HumanaCare, an Alberta-based health and wellness provider with more than thirty-five years of Canadian health care experience.