You may be a dog person or a cat person, but at the end of the day you are a human being with the need to connect and feel comfort. Pets play a huge role in our lives as members of our families or objects of affection. For seniors with memory loss, the attraction to animals can be even stronger than our own. We support pet therapy – here’s why.
Pets are fun! Who doesn’t like a well-mannered dog that likes to throw a ball? There’s a reason that videos of pets and babies are the most viral things on the internet – we love to watch them.
Do you have a pet? If you do, we’re willing to be that you talk to it (and probably using a funny voice). Seniors are the same, but pets offer a special benefit for residents with memory loss. Many people living with impaired memory have difficulties communicating regularly with other people, and as such can become agitated. Pets can offer a sense of relaxation to seniors and allow them to open up better with their caregivers. Better yet, animals communicate pheromonally and can instinctually tell whether a person is sad or in pain. This kind of unspoken communication is incredibly powerful to seniors with memory loss.
Humans love to love. Right? Caring for a pet, even for a just a moment with a visiting therapy dog or cat, can give a senior a sense of purpose – they are caring for another living being. Sometimes the desire to play with a pet can even be the driving reason why a senior would want to get out of bed in the morning.
Think back to your oldest memories – music, family, feelings. As we age we lose track of the specific details of these memories, but we retain the feelings surrounding them. Pets often bring out these feelings (mostly joyful and playful) as they reminisce.
We do everything we can to make the human to human connection strong and supportive for our seniors living with memory loss. It’s amazing to know that our four-legged friends can play such a huge part in their care as well. Have you experienced this with your loved ones, too? Leave a comment below and share your story!