For the last couple of years, Anglian Care has been delivering pet therapy sessions to some clients. This began in the summer of 2020 after a period when so many people we look after had been suffering from the sort of social isolation that came about following lockdown as a result of the pandemic. However, so-called animal assisted therapy has proved to be very popular since then and it does so much more than to break down the barriers of loneliness. In fact, pet therapy can bring about a raft of different benefits. What are they and why might you consider getting involved in future pet therapy sessions?
To begin with, animal assisted therapy is nothing new. It has been going on both formally and informally in care homes and other therapeutic situations for many years. Much of the academic research into animal assisted therapy – although not all – has been conducted in the United States. Some of the findings there are particular to the US but overall the picture is extremely positive for many types of people who undergo such therapeutic sessions.
In the UK, much of the pet therapy that is conducted makes use of cats and dogs, the sort of animals you could find in any domestic setting living as pets, of course. That said, some animal assisted therapies use other sorts of animals from time to time, too. At Anglian Care, we’d like to focus on the benefits of this approach to therapy so you can gain a better understanding of why we deliver it.
- Life Enrichment
Let’s face it, interacting with a purring cat or a dog with a wagging tail is an enjoyable experience for most people whether or not they are involved in a pet therapy session. Given that delivering care to people in their own home is so much more than doing the essentials but enriching lives through chats and informal personal exchanges, a visit from a pet therapist with a well-behaved animal can make such a big difference. Seeing eyes light up as a result of a session like this is so rewarding for everyone involved.
- Mood Improvement
Some of the aforementioned scientific studies have shown that mood improvement is one of the big plusses you can expect following a pet therapy session. In other words, they don’t just raise spirits temporarily but tend to have a longer-lasting and more profound impact on people in most cases. It seems that animals don’t just put people in better moods either but they can even lessen the extent of mood swings.
- Increase Physical Activity
Simply picking up a cat or stroking a dog might constitute a fair degree of exercise for some people, especially the more elderly people we care for. Handling an animal and reacting to the way it moves means people frequently feel that bit fitter at the end of a session compared to when it started. Of course, this very much reflects different individual circumstances. Nevertheless, not all of the stimulation a pet provides is emotional.
- Improved Sociability
When people take part in a pet therapy session they tend to feel more sociable as a result. This means that animals will often bring people out of themselves and be more willing to talk to others. Pets can stimulate memories and prompt conversations. Often we will discover something we didn’t know about a home care recipient if they take part in an animal assisted therapeutic session.
- Cognitive Rehabilitation
Some research indicates that interacting with pets can help the brain to recover. This is why it is often used to help people who have suffered from brain traumas to form new neural pathways. Indeed, the same effect has also been detected in people with more progressive conditions, such as dementia. Of course, handling a pet cannot turn back the tide of time and make a dementia sufferer recover but it does seem to help with brain function in ways that are, as yet, still not fully understood.
With so many benefits that come from getting involved with a pet therapy session, there are no further good reasons you might want to know about before taking the plunge with one. However, we would just like to add that one thing we notice is just how much people smile during them. We frequently experience beams of delight and laughter when the people we care for are exposed to pets. Smiling should never be overlooked as a benefit. After all, what could be a better justification for pet-based therapy than a simple smile?