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Benefits of Pet Therapy in Nursing Homes

July 08, 2019 3 min read

We all know dogs can be healing, but were you aware of just how much they can help someone? While dogs can be a little kid's best friend, they can also be friends to those of all ages. If your dog is a people-lover, you might want to consider taking them to a local nursing home. Here's how pet therapy can be beneficial to those in nursing homes.

Companionship

Nursing homes can be a social environment, but they can isolating, too. If your loved one is feeling a sense of loneliness in their nursing home, a visit from a calm dog can help ease this feeling. While therapy dogs can't live in nursing homes, regular visits can give nursing home residents something to look forward to. 

Building Self-Esteem

After a bad day, all you want to do is hug your dog. And why? Because they give you unconditional love, of course! This confidence-boost from a dog's love can have a profound impact on nursing home residents, who might often be feeling low or down on themselves. Improved self-esteem can lead to other health benefits for nursing home residents, like improved blood pressure and overall improved mental health. 

Increased Physical Activity

When living in a nursing home, it can be easy to forget to exercise because it's standard to stay relatively sedentary. However, visits from dogs can help encourage exercise. Depending on the nursing home and their policies, residents can stay active by walking with dogs around the grounds of the nursing home, whether they're walking them on their own or just walking alongside the dog's owner. Even those who aren't physically capable of walking will enjoy a stroll outside in their wheelchair much more when there is a dog involved!

Improved Memory and Focus

Interacting with dogs, believe it or not, has proved to sharpen mental capabilities. For residents who are struggling with memory or cognitive issues, regular visits from the same dog can help improve their memory, both short-term and long-term. While it's not guaranteed that visits from a dog will provide help for the rest of a resident's life, even a little help (like remembering their name or their favorite treat) helps to stimulate mental activity in the moment. 

Risks

Of course, visits from dogs don't come without risks. If you're thinking about taking your dog for a visit (if they're certified as a therapy dog), here are a few things that you and the staff will need to consider:

  • Attitude - Even some certified therapy dogs (depending on the certification) can get excited or have energetic tendencies. Older, calmer dogs are the right fit for nursing homes, since they're more likely to stay calm and less likely to accident scratch or jump on residents.
  • Bacteria - Dogs can be quite dirty, and we know this. Even regular vet visits, toothbrushing, and bathing won't always stop a dog from carrying bacteria. Since nursing home residents have more vulnerable immune systems, even a minor infection or bacteria like salmonella can have a dangerous impact on those in nursing homes. Be sure your dog is up-to-date on shots and that there's plenty of hand sanitizer. 

If you're interested in taking your dog to visit nursing homes, you can start looking into local programs as well as therapy certification.

Jenna Gomes
Jenna Gomes