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The Benefits of Pet Therapy in Long Term Care Centers
Long term care residents can sometimes suffer from depression caused by age associated life transitions, illness, stress, mental illness and loneliness. Studies have found that those who reside in long term care centers that had a high level of voluntary contact with pets had lower bouts of loneliness than those who reported a low level of contact. Engaging activities such as pet therapy can offer cognitive and social stimulation, which in return can help with frustration, and lessen feelings of loss and loneliness.
Behavioral therapists began experimenting with animals in different health care settings in the 1960’ s. What the therapists found was that pet therapy had a significant impact on long term care residents physical and mental health.
Physical Health Benefits of Pet Therapy:
- Blood pressure begins to lower
- Cardiovascular health begins to improve
- Releases endorphins such as oxytocin, prolactin, phenylectic acid, and dopamine that all have a calming effect on the body
- Overall physical pain starts diminishes
Mental Health Benefits of Pet Therapy:
- Pet therapy has been scientifically proven to lifts spirits and lessen depression in long tern care centers
- LTC residents have shown a decrease of feelings of isolation and alienation
- Pets encourages communication among residents
- An increase in socialization
- Decreases in cortical which has been shown to lowers anxiety and stress levels in residents
There are several organizations that certify that both animals and handlers for pet therapy. One of the largest and well known is the Delta Society. Although in pet therapy dogs are the most common animal used, cats birds and other pets have shown just as effective.
As professional caregivers, certified nursing assistants are often more aware of residents in long term care that can benefit from pet therapy. CNAs are known to provide comfort to the patient and pet therapy can be one more step in the right direction for the care of residents.
If your employer does not offer pet therapy at their long term care facility, it is important that you look into resources for such services. It is important that the animals have certification from a reputable therapy companies and you have proper permission from your employer.