07 Aug 2017

The Benefits Of Pet-Friendly Care Homes

The Benefits Of Pet-Friendly Care Homes

Today is International Cat Day - a day dedicated to celebrating the love that one of the world’s oldest and most popular pets offer. For people of all ages, cats (as well as other pets) can provide love and companionship like no other.

A lot of older people - aged over 65 - choose cats as their pet of choice because they are less physically demanding than dogs but just as affectionate and sociable. The downside to pet ownership in old age is the fact that should the owner need to go into a care home, sometimes it can mean saying goodbye to their beloved pet.

In the UK, there are thousands of care homes that are ‘pet-friendly’ spaces. For seniors having to leave everything that they know behind to go into a care home can be incredibly upsetting and unsettling, which is why so many care homes are now pet-friendly environments. This means that when a person has to go into a care home, for one reason or another, if a pet-friendly place is selected, they can take their beloved pet with them.

With so many care homes becoming pet-friendly places, it’s clear that pets offer a benefit - the question is, how are they beneficial?

Pets can be used for therapy

For the past 30 years, pets - from cats and dogs to chickens and ducks - have been used as a form of therapy. Even care homes that aren’t pet-friendly often incorporate pet therapy into their schedules with specialists bringing pets to visit their patients.

Lori Palley says:

“Pets hold a special place in many people’s hearts and lives, and there is compelling evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that interacting with pets can be beneficial to the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of humans,”

“Several previous studies have found that levels of neurohormones like oxytocin – which is involved in pair-bonding and maternal attachment – rise after interaction with pets, and new brain imaging technologies are helping us begin to understand the neurobiological basis of the relationship, which is exciting.”

Pets can soothe & relieve anxiety in people with dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society has discussed the positive impact that pets can have on people living with dementia. Whether it’s a cat, dog, rabbit, or bird that someone with dementia has as a pet, it can help to improve their quality of life. Pets bring unconditional love, friendship, and fun, and for people with dementia can help to prevent feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as reducing irritability, agitation, and loneliness.

Jane Fossey says:

A number of small-scale studies suggest that introducing animals into care homes can have positive effects for people with dementia. For example, spending time with visiting animals has been shown to reduce blood pressure and anxiety, and improve social interaction and sleeping patterns. It can also reduce the late-afternoon restlessness that can affect people with dementia.”

Pets can reduce loneliness

We’ve discussed how pets can reduce loneliness for people with dementia but what about other care home residents? For seniors in care homes, it’s easy to begin to feel cut off from the outside world, especially when mobility is an issue. However, a new study has shown that having a pet can help to prevent loneliness in seniors, cheer them up, and even improve their quality of life.

The fact is that seniors that have feelings of loneliness and isolation are at increased risk of a range of physical and mental health problems, as well as the possibility of early death. Studies showed that seniors who have no friends or family close by or no pet are the most likely group to report feelings of isolation. However, seniors who have pets are 36% less likely to feel lonely or isolated, as they have a companion on hand at all times.

Pets can offer support

For seniors suffering from certain health conditions, such as hearing loss or vision loss, pets can offer a solid support system. Usually, assistance pets are dogs, but in some instances, other animals are also used to provide support.

Support dogs can now be trained to deal with a range of different health problems and provide high levels of support. From dogs that can sense when a diabetic’s blood sugar is too low or too high to dogs that can sense panic attacks and calm anxiety, there are support dogs for an array of health conditions. For people living in care homes with these conditions, being able to have a support dog can be highly beneficial.

There you have it, a guide to the benefits of pet-friendly care homes. 

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