Amazing Animals: How Pet Therapy Can Help People With Dementia

After two decades of research, we know the facts: Pet therapy benefits those living with dementia in more ways than one. Many smaller studies and one large-scale study in 2019 have proven that pet therapy has significant benefits for patients with dementia.

How can pet therapy help?

Increased Interaction. Animal companionship gives us joy and comfort, but it also encourages withdrawn dementia patients to interact with their environment. Perhaps it’s because animals communicate non-verbally and offer affection without demands. Who can resist a furry friend who wants to play or needs a pat? Therapy dogs know that putting their heads on someone’s knee will lead to lots of attention and petting.

Calmer Days. If you have a pet, you know that (usually) they’re a source of calm. A 2019 study showed that pet therapy triggers a patient’s automatic relaxation response, which reduces rates of anxiety and agitation. Patients in the study had lower stress hormones and lower blood pressure during their pet therapy sessions.

Increased overall memory recall. Some patients in the 2019 study had improved short-term memory. Some recalled having pets in the past, a form of nostalgia therapy.

Fewer Behavior Issues. In 2002, researchers found a significant decrease in behavioral issues like agitation and aggression after adding a full-time resident dog to a memory care center. A 2019 study found the same result and a reduction of sundowner’s behavior (agitation and distress that occurs near nightfall) when people were offered pet therapy.

Better Nutrition and Weight. Even fish aquariums benefit people in memory care communities. In 2002 Purdue University researchers found an increase in nutritional intake and an average 1.65-pound weight gain among the patients who enjoyed fish aquariums in the dining area.

More activity. Patients who interact with pets are more likely to move and get more activity during the day. Throwing a ball, taking a short walk, or playing with a toy gets patients moving and active.

We at Avalon Memory Care know firsthand how helpful pet therapy can be. We coordinate with private companies and hospice services to bring in pet therapy as an event or for an individual upon request. We also encourage pets to visit if they are well behaved. Pets are great for our residents!

Pet therapy events are only one of the ways we can support your loved one at Avalon DFW metroplex, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and South Texas. Our Alzheimer’s support professionals go above and beyond to maintain an unsurpassed level of care, safety, and well-being for each of our residents. When it is time to look for assisted living choices for your loved one, call us at (972) 364-4755.

By |2022-05-03T11:42:35-05:00May 3rd, 2022|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments