Right at Home (Camberley, Ascot & Woking) has a brand new recruit – Bob’s own family Golden Retriever Dilly is planned to become our Pet Therapy dog. Bob says “Dilly has such a wonderful disposition and brings great joy to our family. She’s still quite young and bouncy but once she has a little more experience I’m sure many of our clients would love to meet her”.
It is well known that Pet Therapy animals have long been used to assist blind and disabled individuals. Now, dogs and pets of all kinds have become increasingly common in the treatment of individuals with dementia related disorders.
The kind of obstacles faced by those with dementia include apathy, irritability, restlessness, depression, difficulty engaging in social activities, and risk of loneliness and isolation. Due to the anxiety that social situations can cause in dementia patients, these people often avoid social situations altogether, including interacting with family and loved ones.
There have been hundreds of research articles published on the benefits of pet therapy for people with dementia. Here are a few of those benefits:
1. Improved Mood
Multiple studies have cited benefits such as improved mood and more social interaction — notable benefits since people with dementia are at risk for developing depression, which can further compromise their functioning and quality of life.
One such study evaluated animal assisted therapy at an adult day care center for older adults with dementia. The results indicated that involving the people in activities with dogs decreased their feelings of anxiety and sadness and increased physical activity and positive emotions.
2. Calming Effect
In a study published in 2008, psychologists observed a calming effect following pet therapy in a small sample of nursing home residents. Other studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy yields significantly lower blood pressure levels.
3. Decreased Behavioral Problems
Another study measured the effects of a resident dog, as opposed to a visiting dog, in a nursing home. The researchers found that after the addition of the dog to the Alzheimer’s unit, the residents’ challenging behaviors significantly decreased during the day.