What is Pet Therapy?
Pet therapy utilizes pets, often dogs or cats, to provide comfort and joy to people with dementia. Studies show caring for pets can reduce anxiety, improve mood, and stimulate the mind in dementia patients.
Benefits of Pet Therapy
Pets can provide unconditional love and comfort. They can boost self-esteem and give patients a sense of purpose. Interacting with pets stimulates the senses and promotes socialization. Having a pet nearby can ease anxiety and depression.
Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet
- Does the patient have capacity to care for a pet? They need to understand the commitment.
- Can the patient meet the pet’s needs for feeding, grooming, exercise, vet visits? Consider animal welfare.
- Where will you get the pet? Some sellers may hesitate to sell to dementia patients.
- Consider the patient’s feelings. Not everyone wants or can handle pets. Check for allergies or fear of animals.
- Would occasional pet interactions work better than full ownership? Visit friends’ pets or go to pet cafes.
- Consider robotic or stuffed animal pets which have many benefits without full care commitment.
Choosing the Right Pet
- Dogs – great for daily walks and socializing, but require more care and space. Best for active seniors.
- Cats – lower maintenance but still provide affection. Litterbox needs cleaning.
- Fish – visually stimulating, calming to watch. Easy to care for.
- Birds – entertaining to watch but noisy. Need daily feeding/cleaning.
- Small pets like hamsters or guinea pigs – often kept in cages so lower maintenance. Stimulating to hold.
Making Pet Therapy Work
- Establish a care plan for who will care for the pet if patient’s condition declines.
- Prepare for a move to assisted living – many don’t allow pets. Find alternative home.
- Start with short interactions to gauge patient’s interest before adopting. Go to pet café or friend’s house.
- Ensure patient can financially cover pet expenses like food and medical care.
- Focus on low-maintenance pets that don’t require extensive grooming or exercise.
- Engage patient in daily pet care like feeding or brushing to give sense of purpose.
- Try pet therapy programs at assisted living facilities – great for socializing too.
Bringing Joy and Purpose
With proper preparation and management, pets can bring great joy, comfort and purpose to dementia patients’ lives. Consider the patient’s needs and abilities, ensure the pet’s welfare, and have an ongoing care plan. Pet therapy can provide stimulating engagement and loving companionship.