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Benefits of Pet Therapy for Those with Dementia

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A friendly visit from a tail-wagging dog or purring cat can do much more than simply brighten the day of someone living with dementia. Pet therapy has been proven to play a key role in improving seniors mental, social, emotional, and physical health. As George Eliot said, “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Here are a few ways pet therapy can help dementia patients.

Physical Activity

Being around pets can help seniors get motivated and more involved in physical activity. Those who still have the mobility to do so can get outside to walk with a pup in the courtyard, providing just the ticket to more consistent fitness. Even the smallest exertion such as throwing a ball or brushing a furry companion can help get seniors’ muscles moving with an easy activity they enjoy. 

Emotional Support

Seniors facing dementia can begin to feel agitated or depressed as a result of not being able to communicate as well as they used to. While pet therapy doesn’t cure emotions, it can greatly improve outlook and distract from negative feelings. The company of pets can decrease feelings of isolation, increase self-esteem, and generally improve mental health. Plus, it’s hard not to smile when a pup is so excited to visit you it just has to give you kisses. 

Social Engagement

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to talk to animals or to talk to other people about their pets? This is one of the main reasons why pet therapy is so good for seniors diagnosed with dementia. Pet visitors encourage seniors to interact with others more often than they might without their four-legged friend. Pet therapy can also help your loved ones become more lucid and mentally stimulated. Seniors with more mental stimulation and higher levels of interaction have also been shown to have greater interest in group activities and clubs. 

Sense of Purpose

Pets form a very special bond with humans. Doing things like brushing a pet or giving it a treat can make seniors feel wanted and needed. Visits from pets can bring routine to a senior’s life that gives them a sense of responsibility and something to look forward to.

Reminiscence

Visits from furry companions are a great way to bring back good memories that seniors have of the past. Whether cats or dogs remind them of previous household pets they’ve had or simply help evoke feelings of joy, happiness, or playfulness, these animals can have a positive impact on their memory.

If you’re looking for more information on how to improve the wellbeing of the seniors in your life, visit the Iris Memory Care blog.

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