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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Pet Assisted Therapy

As anyone with a pet can attest – animals bring out the best in most people.  When our Sammy was still alive I loved returning home from Uni to be greeted by his overzealous joy.  Sammy always new how to brighten my days even on my darkest days he just knew what I needed - from a paw of kindness gently placed on my leg to a giant lurcher cuddle where you felt like your whole body was breaking!

There are many articles on the web written about the use of animals as therapy and all are very well informed and provide excellent links to find out more but none really demonstrate what Animal Therapy can do for Dementia Patients.

the edith ellen foundationThe Edith Ellen Foundation work in a holistic approach to care – which means that the Edith Ellen Foundation identifies the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

Pets encompass the who holistic approach – they just see you the person not the illness.

Animal Therapy is proven to improve a patient's social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.

In the UK we have Pets as Therapy a national charity founded in 1983 by Lesley Scott-Ordish.

So how does Pet Therapy work for a dementia patient in a Care Home?

In a bid to make Care and Nursing Homes more “homelike” pet therapy has become a popular form of therapy.  And the benefits are well documented.  Pets bring great benefits to all of us - companionship, unconditional love, and fun. By their very nature, pets do not judge, and they are not critical.

There have been hundreds of research articles published on the benefits of pet therapy for people with dementia. Here are a few of those benefits:

1.    Improved Mood
Studies have citied the benefits of improved mood and an increase in social interaction.  Notably in people with dementia it has should to reduce the risk of developing depression which can further compromise their quality of life and functioning.

By involving people in activities with dogs decreases their feelings of anxiety and sadness and increases their physical activity and positive emotions.

2.    Calming Effect
Along with improving Mood a study published in 2008 by a group of psychologists observed a calming effect following pet therapy.

Importantly it was shown to significantly lower blood pressure.

3.    Improved Nutrition
Nutrition is increasingly becoming a fundamental part of care and Pet Therapy has shown that by placing aquariums in a care home the residents’ food intake and weight increased.  This in turn decreased the need for nutritional supplements.

4.    Decreasing Behavioural Problems
I worked in a residential home for people with Dementia and we had a resident Cat.  I can honestly state that by having a resident cat as opposed to a visiting pet that a notable decrease in residents challenging behaviours was documented.

Types of Pet Therapy
Pet therapy runs the gamut and can include cats, bird aviaries, trained dogs and fish aquariums. Some nursing homes have animals that live at the facility, while others have people who bring animals in to visit regularly.

Some communities also have programs where they'll bring in animals from the local zoo and include an educational component.

Although most of the research on pet therapy has been conducted in Care Homes, it can also be used if someone with dementia is living at home. The presence of a dog or cat at home, for example, can provide some of the same benefits as noted above.

Finally, remember that animals used for pet therapy should be up-to-date on their shots, well-trained, and monitored to ensure everyone's safety, as well as to minimise the exposure for people who have allergies or simply don't care to interact with them.
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