Pet Therapy for Dementia

Pets are more than just fun buddies to keep us company and entertain us. Being around dogs, cats, and other animals has a whole host of health benefits. Dementia is a common condition in senior citizens. Pets can actually help with that too! Here’s how pet therapy can be effective for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a condition that includes loss of memory, trouble with language and problem solving, and a serious decline in other thinking abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.  While memory does sometimes worsen with age, a serious mental decline isn’t a normal or inevitable part of aging. Usually, if you or a loved one is experiencing a serious mental decline with age, it is called dementia. Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, has been studied as a treatment for all types of dementia.

Animal Assisted Therapy 

A common treatment for memory loss is called animal assisted therapy (AAT) or animal assisted intervention (AAI). Animal assisted therapy is a treatment where animals are used as a main part of the treatment. It is also called “pet therapy”. Dogs are the most common animals used in pet therapy.

Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal therapy has been shown by many studies to improve dementia patients’ physical and mental health. One benefit includes improvement in short-term memory. When people pet or cuddle an animal, it causes a release of endorphins and other feel-good hormones. These hormones help with memory, mood, and more. Since people with dementia are at a higher risk for depression, this improvement in mood and quality of life can be significant. 

Animal assisted therapy can also lower your blood pressure and help you feel calmer. This is important because aggression and irritability are sometimes symptoms of dementia.  Being around animals can help dementia patients become more social in positive ways and more physically active, too.

Memory Assistance Dogs

Beyond animal-assisted therapy, memory assistance dogs can help with more practical parts of memory loss like keeping their owners safe and helping them find their way home or to other places within their communities. Similar to guide dogs for the blind, memory assistance dogs can be trained to bring their owner’s medication, remind them to eat, help them find the bathroom, and to trigger an alarm if they have fallen and can’t get up or are otherwise in distress. 

If you think pet therapy might help you or a loved one with dementia, check out Stellar Living Communities. The trained staff and community aspects of Senior Living Communities are vitally important for those with dementia, from independent living with a little help to full-time memory care. Most Stellar Living Communities are pet-friendly, and some even have dog parks! Check out Stellar Living Communities today.