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How Pet Therapy Benefits Senior Living in Florida
Pets provide love and companionship in addition to reduced stress and anxiety levels research proves. What’s even better? Many senior living communities in Florida welcome pets and provide pet therapy for those that do not have one
One thing I have noticed is that animals bring out the best in people. Next time you walk down the street and notice a dog, see how quickly they put a smile on your face. Of course, there are people that do not enjoy the companionship of animals, however, how are they beneficial to the elderly?
PET CARE & SENIOR LIVING
One of the biggest concerns of allowing seniors to bring their beloved pets to senior living communities in Florida is that the program needs to ensure the pets’ well-being. An animal in the life of a senior can give them a new sense of purpose and meaning so it may be beneficial for seniors to have a pet. By the same token, it is important for seniors to be able to take care of their pets. Most senior living communities allow pets, but you must fully be able to take care of your furry friend, taking them out on walks, fed every day, and clean up the occasional accident if at all.
Those that are not able to take care of their own pets can still receive happy puppy visits as several communities incorporate pet therapy programs for their seniors. They typically partner with an outside third-party puppy program that has been certified to provide therapy to seniors.
PET THERAPY’S AMAZING IMPACT ON QUALITY OF LIFE
For seniors, the benefits of a furry companion can be life-altering. Not only is walking a dog great for physical exercise, but just the simple act of caring for a pet-petting, brushing, feeding- provides mental stimulation and keeps you connected with the world. Pets can help seniors feel needed which can translate into a greater sense of purpose and self-worth. Typically, as we grow older, the feeling of being needed starts to dwindle as our kids grow old and do not lean on us as much. Friends and loved ones move away and the hardest part of all is losing a spouse. During what can be a lonely time of life, the unconditional love of a cherished animal can be a bridge to lowered stress and a renewed interest in life.
On the other hand, the stress of owning a pet may not be inherently noticeable for the senior as well. They may not realize that although they love their furry friend, they may also feel anxious if they cannot care for the pet fully but still want to. As Senior Advisors, we have helped many families locate a senior living community for their loved one who owned a pet and it worked out wonderfully. However, there have been a few instances where at first, after the move, everything was going well. Soon after, their loved one developed Dementia and felt anxious all the time. Once the community realized how much stress her pet was putting on her, they recommended taking the pet away for a little to see the difference and within no time, her mood improved tremendously. She can still receive visits from her best friend without the stress of making sure they are taken care of.
Fortunately, there are some senior living communities that do offer a Pet Coordinator to help ensure pets are well cared for in the event the senior cannot, but this is very limited in the Central Florida area. This is an extra charge; however, our senior advisors can help you find these communities that ensure pets are groomed, fed, walked and up to date on veterinary care as well as vaccines.
PET THERAPY’S IMPACT ON SUNDOWNERS SYNDROME & DEMENTIA
Animals can help the physical and mental health of an elder. In a survey that measured the benefits of animal companionship for the elderly, it was found that 71% of the participants stated that their pets make them feel better when they physically don’t. In a study conducted, “approximately one million people die of heart disease each year, animal companionship may save 30,000 lives annually.” (onegreenplanet.org) Think about it, animals usually help us through tough times, they tend to love us unconditionally, they don’t care how old we are and how we look.
Pet therapy for the elderly has also proven to be a powerful tool for what’s known as “Sundowners Syndrome” which typically occurs in the evening time of increased agitation and confusion in those with Alzheimer’s or other related Dementia’s. Animals’ non-verbal communication and unconditional love can be soothing for those with difficulty using language, or some may even be reminded of their own pet from the pest and connect better.
We encourage you to ask about individual senior living communities’ pet policies while on a tour. It’s important to find out if there are weight or breed restrictions as well as community pet care programs.
It’s also good to ask about the pet therapy programs as well which allow volunteers to bring in pets who have gone through a training certification course. Typically, these pets range from dogs, cats, and even goats (yes, goats!) to soothe and comfort elderly residents. Since senior living provides daily/monthly activities, imagine if once a month, they have puppies or kittens come in to simply be with the residents.
Some residents may not want to participate in the activities a community offers, so bringing animals to the community can help them get out of their rooms and become more social. Incorporating animals in an elder’s life can be very beneficial, both emotionally and physically. If there is a way to prolong our loved one’s lives, we should strive as much as we can to do so!
Our North Star Senior Advisors can provide a guided path to Senior Living in Florida that will embrace you or your loved one’s furry friend or can help find ones that offer pet therapy! Call us today at 407-796-1582 to speak with one of our experienced advisors or visit http://www.northstarsa.com/northstarsa.com.