Why more aged care providers should embrace pet therapy
Pets are trusted and loyal companions to many of us in our daily lives. From a young age, we’re often encouraged to connect with animals, and pour love and time into their ongoing wellbeing.
For aged care providers, pet therapy can provide access to pets for residents who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity for connection and closeness. A good number of residents in aged care have had to leave pets behind, and dearly miss their trusted companions.
Beyond providing a connection to their past and giving those in aged care an outlet for their love, pet therapy and the proximity of animals can provide a wealth of other benefits.
Animals have the well-studied ability to alleviate stress and anxiety in those who come into contact with them. For aged care residents, access and proximity to animals may mean the difference between an anxiety free day and a day which is less satisfying – all the more reason why pet therapy should be further explored and implemented.
The simple routines and care associated with looking after an animal fosters reminders of kindness and connection which are otherwise hard to come by in everyday interactions. For a heartwarming preview of how effective contact with animals can be in creating a sense of joy and peace in aged care residents, have a read of this aged care blog.
A Constant Companion
Sharing love with pets or companion animals has lasting positive effects for aged care residents. For older citizens in aged care facilities, some of these positive effects can be especially felt at times where the ability to experience lasting companionship is otherwise difficult.
Pet therapy can offer an opportunity for residents to connect with each other over a shared appreciation of animals. Where other activities can encourage active thinking and mindfulness, pet therapy offers aged care residents an opportunity to emotionally connect with animals and each other, sharing stories and offering tips on care and maintenance of pets.
Active Body, Active Mind
Pet therapy also encourages healthier behaviours in aged care residents by promoting habits such as exercise and mindfulness. Pets such as dogs require constant exercise and upkeep, which can take the form of walks, grooming and bathing. These activities not only encourage physical activity, they also promote a kind of collaboration and delegation among those in aged care, which can help to build a sense of community.
Creating a routine around the needs of a pet can also provide a feeling of stability and permanency which is important to aged care residents. Having a regularly scheduled ‘appointment’ to walk or play with a pet can help to keep the mental agility of residents up to date, and can provide an ongoing sense of purpose.
Embracing Sentimental Attachment
Aged care residents with memory loss or decline may even benefit from the memories that proximity to animals may trigger, with cuddles, walks and patting providing stimulus for recall.
Many older people have fond memories and connections to pets from their past – from as far back as childhood. Being able to channel these sentimental longings into physical care and nurturing of animals can help them to actuate these feelings, and provide a source of ongoing joy.
Pet therapy is an excellent way to provide people in aged care the access to meaningful time with pets. By developing a bond to each other through shared time spent with animals, people in aged care can see benefits in their physical and mental wellbeing, while also enjoying the unique companionship and joy that only an animal can provide.