Pet and animal assisted therapy

As we close out September and World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we will discuss a subject that will bring a smile to your face, pets. For those of us who have dogs as pets, there is no secret as to why they are often referred to as man’s (or woman’s) best friend. In addition to their fun-loving ways, pet and animal assisted therapy can be instrumental in beneficial therapies for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

What is pet therapy?

Pet therapy (also called animal-assisted therapy) has gotten quite popular over recent years. Hundreds of studies and articles have proven the benefits of pet therapy for people with dementia. Some pet therapies can be in outlined in a treatment plan and used for all ages, while many other times it is the mere presence and interaction with a pet that can cause desired benefits. Some of these benefits are:

*Improved Mood and increased social interaction because those with dementia are at risk of developing depression. Animal assisted therapy at adult day care centers and senior communities often results in decreased feelings of anxiety and sadness and increased physical activity and positive emotion.

*Studies also show a calming effect following pet therapy. It also results in lower blood pressure levels.

*Decreased behavior problems are also observed. Many senior communities, memory care faculties and nursing homes have resident dogs for this purpose. In addition, agitation and aggression is also significantly reduced in people with Alzheimer’s disease who were exposed to pet therapy.

*Surprisingly improved nutrition has also been linked to pets. One study showed even placing an aquarium in a facility found residents’ food intake and weight increased.

What exactly is animal-assisted therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals, such as horses, dogs, cats, and birds, into the treatment plan. Animal-assisted therapy is rooted in the bond that can develop between people and animals. Anyone who dislikes or fears animals or is allergic to them, is not a likely candidate for this intervention.

Proper medical care is certainly essential for those diagnosed with dementia. However, we should also consider other therapies such as pet and music therapies as supplements to more ‘conventional’ care.

Hurley Elder Care Law practices a holistic life care planning model of elder law. The three principal goals of a life care plan include appropriate care, asset protection solutions and peace of mind. As part of our commitment to these principals, we recommend outside resources to our clients and their caregivers to help ensure the best quality of life as possible. Please call us at 404-843-0121 to discuss your situation.

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