If you have a loved one with dementia, you probably have heard about how animals or pets can have numerous benefits for them. Pet therapy is also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT). It consists of guided and structured sessions where a trained animal is used to provide therapy to achieve specific objectives in the targeted individual’s treatment plan. The most commonly used animals in pet therapy are dogs and cats. However, other animals such as guinea pigs and fish are also used depending on the situation and criteria. Here, we shall discuss the various benefits of pet therapy for dementia.
Pet therapy can reduce feelings of sadness and anxiety. Through interactions with the animals, your loved one can feel happier. The animals provide a sense of enjoyment, companionship, and love, which are very important to someone with dementia. This improves their mood and allows them to have a more positive outlook on life.
One of the effects of dementia is agitation. You may have noticed your loved one getting more irritable or even aggressive at times. This could be due to the frustration of not being able to do the things they used to, feeling misunderstood, or even frightened. Pet therapy, especially with dogs, can have a calming effect and help to reduce agitation and other related behaviors.
It can be challenging to maintain a good appetite and healthy diet in someone with dementia. However, research has shown that pet therapy can contribute to a marked improvement in Alzheimer’s patients’ nutritional intake and weight. Fish aquariums used in the therapy led to a better appetite and an increase in their nutrition.
Individuals suffering from dementia may often isolate themselves, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. Through pet therapy, they can have more opportunities to communicate without actually attempting to engage in a full conversation, which can be overwhelming for some.
Provides a Sense of Purpose
Some people with dementia may be engulfed with feelings of hopelessness and lose the will to enjoy the things they once did. When they are engaged in pet therapy sessions, they can develop a bond with the pets and find companionship, giving them a sense of purpose.
Boosts Levels of Physical Activity
Animals such as dogs are usually full of energy and are very active. They enjoy activities such as going for walks, playing fetch, or just being petted. When being around these pets, patients are encouraged to be on their feet, move about and stay active. With greater levels of physical activity, your loved one will be kept in better shape and physical health. Their muscle tone will improve and they can have increased strength and flexibility.
Indeed, pet therapy has many benefits for your loved one with dementia and improves their quality of life. Even without the structured sessions of pet therapy, there are many benefits of pets as companions, including enjoyment of their daily life and the experience of unconditional love from a pet. You can look at the different options and ultimately decide which of them would benefit your loved one best.