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The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Seniors

May 26, 2017

At Concordia, we have been bringing pet therapy services to a variety of our locations for over 15 years. We believe this form of therapy brightens the days of our residents and helps to improve socialization. We recently interviewed volunteer Mary Ann Birsa, who has been conducting pet therapy at our Concordia at Ridgewood Place location in Plum Borough. During her interview, Mary Ann described one of her greatest memories being the day one of our residents, who is very nonverbal due to a stroke, met her dog, Pepper.  “As he interacted with Pepper, he actually began to talk,” Mary Ann said. “It was such an amazing experience to witness how people interact with animals. I believe animals can see into your soul.”

Pet Therapy for Seniors - Dog

Pet therapy is considered to be a form of mild therapy for seniors. It varies depending on the needs and capability of the residents.  There are two kinds of pet therapy, generally speaking:

Visitation therapy involves animals visiting elders in hospitals, nursing homes, and adult day centers. This is the most common type of pet therapy. It allows residents to experience the benefits of having pets around without the magnitude of responsibility animals require.

Animal-assisted therapy is advised for residents and patients needing a more intensive therapy regimen. Patients are paired with highly sensitive animals as part of their rehabilitation.

According to Katherine Scott, DVM, DACVIM, in an article on WebMD, with each visit comes a laundry list of health benefits, including:

  • Lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress
  • Increased serotonin, a chemical associated with wellbeing
  • Potentially lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Calming, anti-depressive effect
  • Increased interaction, which contributes to a healthy mind
  • Rebuilding strength through petting, while recovering from a stroke or other illness

There are many articles and opinions that state these holistic health benefits, but what’s hard to measure, and the most impactful at Concordia, is the true healing power of happiness that the pets bring to residents. 

Pets provide unconditional love. They are non-threatening, and they don’t impose demands. They can help seniors be more focused on what’s currently happening instead of what went and could go wrong. Apart from that, pet therapy can also alleviate stress and help them achieve better spiritual fulfillment. It gives them motivation to get up every morning.  

Interested in pet therapy for your loved one?  Are you a volunteer who might like to participate in pet therapy at Concordia? If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us any time via our online contact form or by calling our administrative headquarters at 724-352-1571. Or, visit the care levels & services page of our website to learn about the types of care we offer including In-Home CareMemory CareLong-Term Nursing CareHospice Care and more.

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