Ask one of our residents what their favorite animal visit was this year and you’ll probably get a different answer from each of them.
That’s because our Anthem communities partner with local organizations and farms which enables them to bring a variety of beautiful animals to visit residents and staff. Some residents prefer dogs, others love cats. We have bird lovers as well as those who are intrigued by fish and reptiles. And, not surprisingly, their preferences usually reflect their favorites from earlier years.
That means that, on any given day, you might see a goat, a cockatiel or, most frequently, a favorite therapy dog come through our doors. And our visits to stables and wildlife sanctuaries broaden the experience further to include horses, llamas, and other animals in their natural habitats.
While the animals we engage with may vary, what never seems to vary are the smiles and joy they bring to our residents and staff members.
Animals provide a very natural kind of therapy, the benefits of which can be hard to quantify. And yet those benefits are very real. Research studies have found that “animal-assisted” therapy, as it’s referred to by experts, can improve both our emotional and physical well-being. That includes several of the issues associated with dementia. Here are a few:
- Reduced feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Interactions with pets or other animals as a part of animal-assisted therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase a sense of well-being.
- Reduced agitation and aggression. Animal-assisted therapy can temporarily reduce behavioral issues such as aggression and agitation. The act of interacting with an animal causes the individual to focus on the animal. That focus can help tune out triggers for behavioral issues.
- Improved social connections. Not only do animals create a natural connection with those they come into contact with, but research also finds that connections with others around them are improved as well. For individuals with dementia, these positive connections are especially important.
We welcome you to visit our Anthem Memory Care community websites as well as their Facebook pages. You’ll see lots of great photos and videos of some wonderful animal interactions. You’ll see lots of smiles and laughter as well.
If you are caring for a loved one who has always been an animal lover, make it a point to regularly engage them with family or neighborhood pets. Of course, make sure these animals are clean and well behaved. But making the effort to arrange these visits will be well worth your efforts. And they may spark a memory or two in the process.
(We have so many amazing photos of residents with animals it was hard to pick just one for our header image. This one shows a Chelsea Place resident giving some love to an adorable baby goat.)