There is no question that therapy dog visits to the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals have countless positive effects. A dog is man’s best friend, and that same logic holds true as people age and can no longer take care of their pets because they are moving to a nursing home or are in the hospital. We can’t forget about the companionship a pet offers a person, thus, increasing their overall health, physically and mentally.
Professor of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Karen Snowden, says, “Having regular interactions with a pet has shown to lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, increase physical activity, and enhance social opportunities.”
There are nursing shortages all over the country, and unfortunately, this leads to patients receiving only the necessary interactions with the staff. This shortage is an excellent opportunity for service dogs to fulfill the void of human exchanges. New Life K9s is one non-profit agency that trains K9s to be placed in facilities, allowing the human-K9 bond to provide immeasurable benefits.
A dog can help an older person with exercise. They can walk the dog up and down the hallways, allowing for more mobility and a purpose for getting out of bed or sitting in a chair for long periods. In addition, this may help alleviate the isolation a person may be experiencing by staying in their room.
Having a dog in a nursing home or hospital setting can increase socialization among the patients and residents, not to mention the joy and laughter that can be experienced. Imagine what laughter could do for the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals when they feel all alone. Laughter can significantly impact mental health by putting us in a good mood, creating a positive outlook on life, and decreasing depression and anxiety.
Dogs can assist in recalling memories of a patient’s pet. Talking can lead to having a sense of belonging and encourage each other to share stories from their past. Again, this is an opportunity for conversation among patients that might not have existed. In addition, therapy dogs interacting with patients can reduce stress levels and blood pressure. They bring a sense of calmness with the unconditional love they provide. Due to this exchange between a dog and a patient, the medications taken may be able to be decreased.
Therapy dogs can be crucial in an elderly person’s life in a nursing home or a hospital setting. K9s provide companionship and unconditional love and are a joy to have around. Patients’ lives can be enhanced when a dog is present through exercise, increased conversations, laughter, and entertainment, which ultimately improves overall physical and mental health.
One thing to remember is that not all nursing homes and hospitals allow therapy dogs inside. Certain precautions would need to be taken, such as ensuring the patients don’t have dog allergies and the dogs coming in are well-trained. The benefits of therapy dogs in nursing homes and hospitals certainly outweigh the drawbacks, so perhaps one day, all nursing homes and hospitals can accommodate these life-changing animals.
Visit NewLifeK9s.org to see how you can help enrich people’s lives through the human-canine bond.
Rosenfeld, J. (2018, January 25). The Benefits of Pet Therapy in Nursing Homes.
Elliott, Sophia M., "The Psychological Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy on Elderly Nursing Home Patients" (2015). http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/honors_research_projects/59
(2013, June 20). Pet Therapy In Nursing Homes: Assisted Living May Never Be The Same.
Retrieved from vetmed.tamu.edu