Therapeutic Effects of Interacting with Animals

Where humans and traditional medicine sometimes fail, animals often succeed in cutting through the physical and emotional barriers that isolate certain people in our society. This is especially true for residents of nursing homes and those with Alzheimer's and/or dementia. Studies have found that simply having an animal present or visiting a long-term care facility can provide multiple health benefits to residents. Some skilled nursing facility residents have shown increased communication, decreased anxiety, lower heart rates, and a decrease in depression following interactions with animals. Alzheimer's patients who often experience behavior disorders such as agitation and aggression have exhibited fewer episodes of verbal outbursts and anxiety and increased positive socialization when a therapy dog was present.

Who are these special animals, and how does animal assisted therapy (AAT) work? Organizations like Delta Society provide animal therapy services to long-term care facilities for either volunteers or on-staff health care professionals to implement. Dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits and even cats owned either by a volunteer or the organization in question are used to provide these social, motivational and recreational opportunities for seniors. In addition, these animals offer health care professionals a therapeutic treatment tool to incorporate into specific patient treatment plans. Before considering instituting any AAT program, a facility should go through a site assessment to determine what types of AAT programs would be appropriate for a specific patient population.

The cost-effectiveness of an AAT approach can yield real clinical outcomes. The problem is too many health care providers are unaware of the tremendous healing potential of animals and lack the proper information and training to incorporate animals into their care and treatment plans.

almost 3 years ago, said...

I would take my dog Chance with me everytime I would visit my mom in the nursing home. My mom had alzheimers/dementia. The smile that Chance brought to my mom including the other residents was priceless. There would be talking, petting, interaction, and best of all the laughter & smiles that the dog brought them was amazing to see. Sadly Chance passed away July 1/12 but during her years I know she loved the visits as much as my mom did. My mom passed away Sept.7/13 but I'm thankful that she had the "Chance" to make her smile

over 6 years ago, said...

Pets have always played an important part in my family. We have always had a pet. Recently guinea pigs are playing an important role in my life. They have helped me with depression. It might sound odd, but Guinea pigs bond easily and are easy to care for. Hand feeding them is wonderful I have even written a guide on caring for them. It has given some joy in my life to share about what I know about them