Dr. Edward Creagen, of the Mayo Clinic, was once quoted as saying, “If pet ownership was a medication, it would be patented tomorrow.”
It is a statement that most of us would agree with. Throughout history, much has been written about the seemingly miraculous effect pets can have on those who are ill or elderly. If you have a loved one with a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, you may have observed that the simple act of petting an animal can bring a smile or flicker of recognition to mom’s or dad’s face.
Most experts agree that interacting with a pet can have a positive impact on health and well being. Why is this? There are many reasons, and they may be different for everyone. We are often asked at our Anthem Memory Care communities, why our therapeutic programs include animals. Here are three key benefits interactions with animals bring to our residents.
Physical Health: Feeling the breathing and movement of an animal beneath one's hands can have a calming effect. It has been proven to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Emotional Health: The simple act of petting an animal can help lower anxiety and provide an individual with improved sense of well being. By showing kindness towards the animal, the individual can feel a heightened sense of purpose which can reduce apathy and boredom.
- Socialization: Pets encourage interaction. They provide individuals with dementia with a unique way to connect with others around them. Often caregivers find that both verbal and non-verbal communications increase as their loved one interacts with an animal. Furthermore, the decrease in anxiety can help the individual feel less threatened by those around them, which can lead to more opportunities to socialize.
Our communities have found that pet visits improve the well being of our caregivers as well as our residents. They find these visits uplifting and energizing and look forward to them as much as our residents do. For all these reasons and more, regularly bringing our animal friends to visit residents is regular event in our Anthem communities.
As Karin Winegar, author of the book, Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform, writes, “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.”