Most people know that pets improve their human’s overall mood, sense of happiness and well-being, but did you know that scientific studies have shown that owning a dog or cat can actually improve your health?
According to recent studies, just fifteen minutes of bonding with pets causes a chain of chemical reactions to occur in the brain which lower stress hormones and increase serotonin (the “feel good” hormone). Other therapeutic effects of pet bonding include: lowering of blood pressure and heart rate and stress reduction. Long term studies of pet ownership indicate that human and pet interaction can result in lower cholesterol levels and may even fight against depression, stroke and heart disease.
Considering all of the benefits of pet companionship, it just stands to reason that a pet is good therapy for those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In fact, many long term care facilities are adopting pets to bond with residents, and hiring pet coordinators to help with the care of residents’ pets. Animals reportedly have a special attachment to those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Pet visits have been shown to help those with Alzheimer’s disease in lowering anxiety, depression and agitation.
If you are considering adoption of a pet, be sure to pay attention to the pet’s temperament. You want to choose a calm animal and avoid too much excess energy and/or hyper behavior such as jumping or frequent barking.
Be aware that those with dementia may exhibit inconsistent responses to animals. Perhaps one day your loved one will really bond with the pet and another day he/she may want nothing to do with it.
According to a blog posted by “A Place for Mom,” The San Diego Humane Society’s Pet-Assisted Therapy Program noted improvements in residents including; increased appetite, improvement in social interaction and cognitive improvement-after interacting with pets. “Animals provide unconditional love and emotional support in a way that is unparalleled. Our Pet-Assisted Therapy program brings the joys of animals to people who are otherwise unable to have an animal in their life, such as those living in facilities such as convalescent homes, hospitals, mental health centers, children’s homes and juvenile detention centers,” says Judith Eisenberg, Coordinator for the San Diego Humane Society.
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