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Using Pets in Alzheimer’s Therapy

By Nick Paciello, 9:00 am on

Many families providing Henderson, NV, Alzheimer’s care for their elderly loved ones are discovering pet therapy can be a useful tool in alleviating Alzheimer’s symptoms and enhancing a senior’s quality of life. Here are the few of the ways having a pet can help your loved one manage the disease, as well as some factors to consider before getting him or her a pet.

Socialization

Seniors with Alzheimer’s often find it difficult to engage in conversation as the condition progresses, which can lead to increased isolation, loneliness, and depression. However, regular social stimulation is crucial for keeping the mind sharp. The language of a wagging tail or a purr can bridge this communication gap and serve as an icebreaker and point of connection between your loved one and another animal lover.

Physical Activity

In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, researchers determined aerobic exercise creates physical and chemical changes in the brain that enhance memory and thought processes. The cognitive and physical effects of Alzheimer’s can make it challenging to get enough exercise to maintain overall health, but even the limited exertion of a short walk with a dog or brushing a cat can enhance muscle coordination and provide a meditative form of activity. 

Calming Effects

Being around a pet has the physiological effects of slowing the heart rate, reducing blood pressure, and producing overall feelings of wellbeing. Seniors with Alzheimer’s who have companion animals also exhibit fewer daytime behavioral problems. These same seniors also tend to be more compliant regarding eating and other desired behaviors.

Some Factors to Consider

Pet therapy can include cats, dogs, birds, or even a simple aquarium full of fish. When choosing a companion animal for your loved one, it is important to consider the animal’s temperament, your loved one’s personality and living situation, and the maintenance and upkeep requirements of the animal. Pets should be up to date on their vaccinations and properly trained to ensure your loved one’s safety.

Both rescue pets and trained therapy animals can provide therapeutic benefits for your loved one. Trained therapy animals tend to be less skittish and more tolerant and calm around others. Some can even be trained to alert you if your loved one starts to wander or engage in other dangerous behavior.

Seniors who are unable to manage caring for a pet have many other options for alleviating their Alzheimer’s symptoms. At Henderson Home Care Assistance, all of our Alzheimer’s care plans include a complimentary program called the Cognitive Therapeutics Method, which uses engaging activities to help slow cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. For more information on elder care Henderson, NV, families can count on, call one of our friendly Care Managers at (702) 527-7723 to request a free consultation.