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Pet Therapy Brings Calm and Joy to Memory Care Residents

Pet Therapy Brings Calm and Joy to Memory Care Residents

Oftentimes, thoughts of a beloved pet from our childhood come to mind when we interact with animals. Frequently, these thoughts about our first dog or cat, a neighbor’s horse, or a bird with a beautiful voice, evoke happy, pleasant memories. It is the same for people with dementia.

Numerous studies allowing residents living in memory care communities to interact with therapy animals have been conducted. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that several investigations outline improved behavior in residents with dementia when in the presence of animals. Their most frequent studies showed significant alleviation of cognitive disorders, such as agitation, in elderly participants. These studies also revealed intangible benefits to the mental health of older persons including relief from social isolation and boredom.

DukeHealth agrees. Research at Duke shows pet therapy is an effective form of psychotherapy intervention that reduces stress and depression in seniors. It not only provides a sense of companionship that can combat feelings of isolation, but also increases an individual’s social behaviors, such as smiling or speaking.

Another interesting study result is that when memory care residents were exposed to a plush mechanical toy dog or cat—one that could sit up, wag its tail and make sounds—subjects responded similarly to a real animal, by talking to it or clapping their hands when it moved.

Many of Sagora Senior Living’s memory care communities offer credentialed pet therapy programs to our residents.

The Veraden Memory Care in Edmond, Okla. not only works with a trained canine companion, but also has plush, mechanical pets for residents to enjoy. “Along with the happiness felt by the residents when they hear the cat meow or purr, these robotic pets can help redirect behavior by providing a purposeful life skill program for the residents,” said Senior Lifestyles & Pathways Specialist Christal Hoffman. “Combing the plush fur can provide comfort to a resident that might be having a hard day. Oftentimes our nonverbal residents will talk and sing to their community pets.

“When we invite animals into our communities, you can feel the air in the room lift,” Hoffman smiled. “There is a lightness, a fun, and kindhearted spirit that engulfs the community. Our residents come from many different cultures and backgrounds so offering pet therapy of not only dogs and cats creates meaningful reminiscing moments, education opportunities, as well as new experiences for all our residents.”


Written by Becky Deo

August 23, 2018

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