The integration of animals into elderly therapy is certainly not a new trend. However, in recent years, a growing number of nursing homes throughout the country are instituting animal therapy programs to bring the psychological, physiological and emotional health benefits of companionship to residents.
Deb Burcombe, Deputy Director of the Utah Health Care Association, explains how.
The integration of animals into elderly therapy is certainly not a new trend. However, in recent years, a growing number of nursing homes throughout the country are instituting animal therapy programs to bring the psychological, physiological and emotional health benefits of companionship to residents. Studies have shown that continual animal interaction has the ability to significantly improve the quality of life, general well-being and self-esteem of nursing home residents.
Physiological Health Benefits of Animal Companionship
Companion animals provide a sense of security, familiarity and relaxation to those in long-term care. The addition of a lively friend in a nursing home community does much more than spark conversation. Human-animal companionship is said to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, relieve depression and physical pain, boost self-esteem and exercise cognitive abilities. For some nursing home residents, acclimatizing to a new environment can lead to stress and anxiety. A weekly, or even daily, visit from an animal can create a feeling of comfort and affection, contributing to an overall improvement in quality of life.
Psychological and Emotional Health Benefits of Animal Companionship
An animal’s unconditional love yields an incomparable form of healing. Not only are there many physiological health benefits associated with animal companionship, but there are also a number of noticeable psychological and emotional health benefits. The bonds formed between nursing home residents and therapy or companion animals curb loneliness and boredom. The animals also provide emotional support, while stimulating cognitive abilities. If residents are able enough to assist in animal care, this increases confidence and enthusiasm in their daily lives.
Animals have an extraordinary gift of sensing what is needed. It only takes a gentle nudge of a dog’s nose or a moment of playful fun, but these interactions genuinely touch the lives of not only nursing home residents, but also the lives of therapy animals.
For more information about Utah nursing homes, please visit utahhealthcareassociation.org or call 801-486-6100.