Pet therapy is gaining popularity as a means to improve our well being and to help achieve therapy goals. Pet therapy includes two similar but distinct strategies: 1) animal-assisted therapy (AAT), which is using animals for a specific treatment goal (e.g., developing fine motor skills after a stroke by grooming or petting a dog); and 2) animal-assisted activities (AAA), which are using specially trained animals to provide more general therapy goals (e.g., cheering up patients in a hospital). These strategies are particularly relevant for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the elderly, especially those in nursing homes.Here are three ways that pet therapy can help seniors, especially our family members in nursing homes:
- Exercise: pet therapy can help encourage the elderly to get moving, though assisted or independent movement. Walking and playing with a pet can encourage exercise by making it easy and fun. Regular exercise improves joint health and helps prevent disease, such as heart disease and diabetes. Regular exercise also reduces the risk of falls, which are a major cause of serious injury and death among people 65 older.
- Mental health: Loneliness is a significant issue among the elderly, with links to serious health conditions. Pets provide companionship to help combat loneliness. Studies have shown that pets can improve our sense of happiness and reduce anxiety and depression. Pet therapy can encourage the elderly to engage in social group activities they might shy away from otherwise, and it can improve their self-esteem and give them a sense of purpose.
- Recovery from injury or illness: Dog therapy programs can help the elderly maintain or recover fine motor skills by activities such as feeding, petting, grooming a pet. Playing with pets or walking them can be used to help with gross motor skills. Pets can also encourage and improve verbal communication for those who have suffered aphasia, such as stroke survivors. When the elderly are recovering from illness or injury, a positive attitude can be life-saving, and pet therapy has been instrumental in keeping spirits high.
What Makes an Animal a Therapy Pet?
Pet therapy animals require specialized training and certification. Dogs have evolved to be loyal, easily trained, and well attuned to human emotions, making them the most common therapy pets, but cats and other animals can be used as well.
Looking for Pet Therapy Options?
Here are a few links to get you started on your search for pet therapy.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured because of a nursing home’s lax policies, you deserve compensation to help cover medical costs and other losses. Additionally, any facility that fails to keep its patients safe should be held accountable. In the world of for-profit nursing homes, lawsuits are often one of the only ways to prompt large-scale change.
At Brown & Barron, our nursing home abuse lawyers are here to help you. Call us any time at (410) 698-1717 to schedule your free consultation.