Therapy Pets at The Arbors

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Most of us remember fondly a favorite pet. So when we see a dog or cat, we react in a positive manner. We smile. We make eye contact. We want to pet it.

Pets are good for humans.

Pet therapy has long been known to be beneficial. In 1859, Florence Nightingale remarked on the efficacy of a pet for the chronically ill.

Pets are healers. Pets lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and increase immunity. Dog ownership is associated with lower heart attack risks and increased survival one year after a heart attack. People who talked to a pet had lower heart rates than those who spoke to other people.

Pet Benefits for Seniors

  • Exercise. Whether you’re walking your dog or feeding your cat, you give your body an additional workout. Older dog owners make fewer visits to the doctor compared with people who don’t own pets, and doctors believe it’s because they walk farther with their dogs.
  • Better health. Studies performed in skilled nursing communities link the presence of a dog with a reduced need for medication, better physical function, and improved vital signs. Research also showed reductions in loneliness, agitated behaviors and depression, as well as increases in engagement, well-being, nutritional intake and social interactions.
  • Socialization. Pets are instant ice-breakers. If you have a pet, you’re probably accustomed to having people ask to pet it. If you don’t, you’ve probably been the person who asked. It’s likely you struck up a conversation, too. Socializing benefits mental and physical health, enhances self-esteem, and helps your mind work better.
  • Pain reduction. A Pittsburgh pain clinic study found that 10 to 15 minutes with a therapy dog not only reduced pain, it increased calmness and cheerfulness and reduced stress levels in fibromyalgia patients. According to Dr. Dawn Marcus, who conducted the study, “Clinically meaningful pain relief was reported in 34% of the fibromyalgia patients after the dog visit versus only 4% in the waiting room controls. Effects did not appear to be substantially influenced by coexisting mood disorder symptoms.”
  • Depression remedy. Petting an animal causes your brain to release endorphins, which lead to a sense of well-being and can alleviate depression.
  • Fatigue alleviation. Fibromyalgia patients reported a decrease in fatigue after 10 to 15 minutes with a therapy dog, as reported in the Pittsburgh pain clinic study.
  • Increased circulation and tactile stimulation. “Pet therapy helps hospital patients with tactile stimulation, relaxation, and circulation,” says medical massage therapist Pamela Rapiñan, whose dog, Mop, is a therapy dog.
  • Rehabilitation. Pets can be used to promote rehabilitative behaviors, such as throwing a ball or walking.

What Is Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy, also called animal-assisted therapy, includes everything from swimming with the dolphins to riding a horse to petting a dog.

Animal-assisted therapy uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or cope with health issues, including cancer, mental health disorders, or heart disease. Therapy can also be used in nonmedical setting to help people with anxiety and stress. Animal-assisted activities provide enjoyment for people in long-term care.

According to the Mayo Clinic, pet therapy provides benefits for everyone around the animal. Family members and friends report feeling better, too.

Pet Therapy at The Arbors

The benefits of pet therapy for older adults are so significant that every single one of The Arbors’ locations offers pet therapy on a regular basis.

Therapy dogs may be introduced to a group and, at times, in a resident’s apartment. “The visits are a highlight of my week,” says one resident of The Arbors at Stoughton.

Patricia Ricketts, The Arbors regional Reflections program and activity director, said the program has proven beneficial for residents and staff.

“Our residents truly enjoy spending time with the therapy dogs. They’re full of smiles and laughter when the dogs are here. And, because our residents are happy, the happiness spreads to our staff,” she says.

“The handlers are very professional, and the dogs are well-trained and immunized. We have no concerns about the interaction with our residents,” she adds.

Because apartments are under one roof, residents don’t have pets in their apartments, although The Arbors encourages visits. Regular visits by a therapy dog provide all the benefits of interacting with a pet without the danger of allergy attacks, potential trips or messes.

At The Arbors, we do everything we can to ensure each resident lives a lifestyle of health and wellness.

 

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