The Mayo Clinic recently published an article on pet therapy, aka animal assisted therapy and activities. The June 2015 article discusses the growing support for pet therapy and its value to people recovering from medical issues and to seniors.

It is important to distinguish between animal-assisted therapy for seniors and animal-assisted activities. According to the Mayo Clinic, animal-assisted therapy is when an animal (usually a dog, but not always) is used to help a person recover from a health problem, physical or mental. Animal-assisted activities are geared more toward comfort and enjoyment.

The Animal League America believes that “animal-assisted therapy sessions not only improve peoples’ mood, but also helps them recuperate from illness faster, become more physically and emotionally relaxed, and significantly reduces loneliness.” The organization also reports that a study done in New York, Missouri and Texas nursing homes showed patients’ medication costs dropped an average of 69 percent when pets were allowed to visit.

How Does Animal-Assisted Therapy for Seniors Work?

Speaking from the in-home care perspective, a trained handler will bring the animal to the senior’s home. The handler and senior will then engage in activities such as going for a short walk, giving the animal treats, and petting or brushing. The visit can be tailored to the senior’s situation.

Other Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Animal-Assisted Activities

  • Help seniors focus outside of themselves
  • Develop a sense of rapport with another living creature
  • Experience non-threatening physical contact
  • Stimulate mental faculties
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improve mood, depression and loneliness
  • Increase social interaction
  • Increase appetite and adherence to medical regimen

You may have concerns about safety and sanitation when considering pet therapy. However, legit pet therapy providers will complete behavior/training programs, can provide current immunization records, and will always present clean animals.

Assisted Living Services is proud to offer animal-assisted therapy for seniors. Our wonderful dog Sonny has completed extensive training and obedience courses followed by extensive course and handling work through Pet Partners (formerly known as Delta Society) that have enabled him to become a Registered Therapy Animal. Be assured that Sonny will be bathed and well-groomed prior to each visit. He has complete veterinary records/immunizations, and is fully insured.

To schedule a visit with Sonny, please call our office at 203-634-8668.