Celebrating a birthday with pet therapy

19 November 2022

Celebrating a birthday in residential care with pet therapy

Do you enjoy caring for or looking after pets? One of our residents at Hargrave House (our care home in Essex) certainly does. As a special birthday present, she was celebrating her 90th birthday in style with “Performing Pets”, a company that provides a bespoke animal service for people to interact with a variety of different animals. We all had such an amazing experience and the residents enjoyed it so much that Performing Pets offered to donate a rabbit to the home for our residents to continue to enjoy their positive fluffiness!

Did you know that pet therapy helps people living with Dementia?

Pet therapy (also known as animal-assisted therapy) is a therapeutic interposition that incorporates different animals such as cats, dogs, birds (even goats!) into the treatment plan. It is used to increase the effectiveness of traditional therapy.

Over the last several years, there has been increased attention for pet therapy. Making a residential care home “home-like“ is of course very important to the residents that reside there. According to Dr. Bill Thomas, “Care home residents can suffer from loneliness, helplessness, and boredom more than from medical problems”, Dr. Thomas described these terms “The Three Plagues“ of care homes. This led him to propose a philosophy called the “Eden Alternative”; a way of improving the lives of elders and care partners wherever they may live and emphasising the presence of plants, animals and children. His thesis includes that care homes are homes, not hospitals, and should be treated as such enabling a human habitat model.

What are the benefits of pet therapy?

Lower blood pressure

UCLA health studies show what science says about the use of animal-assisted therapy for mental and physical health. Science says that the simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response which can lower blood pressure and increase cardiovascular health. Other Research also shows that it reduces anxiety and increases mental stimulation

Decreased Behavioural Problems

In 2018, a study into pet therapy that was carried out on elderly patients revealed that it increases motivation, improved pro-social conduct and increase behavioural problems. Another study measured the effectiveness of a resident dog, as opposed to a visiting dog, in a care home. This revealed that the residents of the Alzheimer’s unit challenging behaviours decreased during the day.

Improved mood

It is clear that with applied pet therapy, improved mood is noted along with more social interaction amongst peers, which is beneficial for residents with dementia as they are more at risk for developing depression, which can impact their functioning and quality of life.

Calming effect

Research carried out in 2008 revealed that animal-assisted therapy had a calming effect on patients with dementia. A dog’s unconditional acceptance increases the self-esteem of the residents it visited and contributes to a more secure environment.

AgeCare has worked in cooperation with Performing Pets for a number of years now and wholly recognises the important calming influences the visits have on both residents suffering with and without dementia. It also brings such happiness to our residents and we can’t wait for the next visit from the team!

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