For people of all ages, pets bring joy and love into our lives. But did you know that pet therapy actually has quantifiable benefits, especially for our aging community? Even owning a pet in your own home can help with stress, high blood pressure and help us to focus on someone who loves un unconditionally. Let’s take a look at what pet therapy is and how it can benefit us.
What is Pet Therapy?
Pet therapy can take on many different forms:
Pet Ownership. Anyone who has owned a pet knows the wagging tail of a dog or purr of a kitten can soothe the soul. This is a great option for any individual who has the ability to care for a pet in their home. This would include meeting the needs of a pet, such as walking, feeding and grooming, as well as being able to pay related costs (including things like veterinary care).
Pet Visitation. There are numerous programs around the country who bring pets to nursing homes, senior’s centers or who allow seniors to have visitation in-house, such as in an animal shelter.
Animal-assisted therapy. In cases where an individual needs extreme rehabilitation, sometimes animals are brought in to assist with confidence building,
5 Benefits of Pet Therapy
Reduced risk of depression
A number of studies indicate that owning or having regular interaction with a pet helps us manage depression. When we love an animal and it naturally and unconditionally loves us, and we are responsible for them, it can impact our mental health in a positive way.
The simple act of carting for another creature and being responsible for them, also helps us to build confidence that we can not only care for ourselves, but possibly someone else, which can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and build interpersonal skills.
Improvement in interaction with others
Animals love us, interact with us and listen without judgement. Because of this, pet therapy can be extremely helpful when it comes to how we interact with others. It can be a wonderful bridge of learning how we can talk with, care for and show love to people around us.
Caring for an animal can also teach us about how to put others’ needs before our own, which is very helpful when it comes to strengthening interpersonal skills. The nature of an animal’s unconditional affection for us also helps to build trust.
Reducing anxiety and/or agitation
The repetitive motion of petting an animal helps to promote the relaxation response in our bodies and can help to reduce agitation and anxiety. And the non-judgmental (and usually lovingly reciprocal) relationship helps to calm nervousness and mistrust.
Lowering of blood pressure and heart rate
Studies have shown that having something warm and furry to pet and caress actually helps to lower our heart rate and subsequently our blood pressure. Their unbiased affection towards us also physically puts us at ease, and the body responds by releasing endorphins. These endorphins act as pain relievers and increase our overall feeling of well-being.
Potential increase in physical exercise
Especially for those individuals who have a pet in the home, regular pet activities, such as walking, brushing, and feeding can be beneficial for increasing or maintaining mobility. Seniors who may go to a senior center to participate in pet therapy are often encouraged to work with them physically somehow, like by brushing them.
Whether you have a pet of your own or participate in a local pet therapy program or even pet sit for your neighbors, the benefits of just being around a furry friend are endless! If you’re interested in finding a local animal shelter near you, click here for more information.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
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*No information in this article is to be taken as advice, medical or otherwise. This post is not sponsored, but may contain external links to websites, articles or product examples. External links are used for example or refence purposes only and these links do not indicate specific product or website endorsement by CareGivers of America.