If your elderly loved one is struggling in occupational therapy or physical therapy, it might be time to inquire about animal assisted therapy. Commonly known as pet therapy, AAT is a new and impressive practice that uses animals to motivate and inspire people that are currently undergoing rehabilitation.
What is Pet Therapy?
Pet therapy comes in several different variations, but a true animal assisted therapy requires close coordination between physical therapists, doctors or mental health therapists and the animal/handler team. Pet therapy can help seniors with physical therapy and occupational therapy exercises and activities, incorporating the animal into the exercises or tasks. They can also be a part of mental health treatments, hospital stays, elder care facilities and clinic visits.
Most of the animals used in pet therapy are dogs and cats, but many different animals can also become animal assistants like birds, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs and even snakes. Because dogs and cats hold a special place in most people’s hearts, and dogs are extremely easy to train in order to help patients, they remain the most common.
How Can Pet Therapy Help Seniors?
Pet therapy may not seem like it could make much of a difference, but the presence of an animal provides entertainment, motivation and even humor. For example, an elderly woman who is recovering from a stroke needs to move her left arm from side to side repeatedly to build up muscles and regain motor control. She is tired of doing it over and over and gets bored easily. She may even feel frustrated and stop listening to her physical therapist.
When a long-haired therapy cat is introduced, the elderly woman is required to brush the cat’s long coat. Gripping the brush and brushing the cat from head to tail is the same movement the physical therapist required from the elderly woman but now she doesn’t mind it and even extends the repetitions to hear the therapy cat’s pleased purring. This is just one example of how a therapy animal can distract seniors enough to make unpleasant, hard and even painful rehabilitation more tolerable.
Researchers have shown that engaging with animals reduces stress, anxiety and depression and can even lower blood pressure. They can be a wonderful tool to help seniors open up to therapists and doctors, putting them at ease and helping them to relax. The number of situations where therapy animals can help elderly loved ones is endless.
Pet therapy can be found in clinics, hospitals, senior centers, physical and occupational centers, surgery centers and more. There are even mobile services that can travel to an elderly person’s home if needed. It’s hard for anyone to resist furry friends that give and receive so much affection. Seniors may respond better to animals where human therapists, family members and elder care aides have not succeeded.
We provide quality non-medical services to our clients in their homes or in a facility if that’s where they live. Our staff is available for care plans for extensive care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or as little as 4 hours per visit. Reach out to us, and one of our outstanding administrative staff will meet with potential clients to assist them and their families in designing an effective, personal plan of care.