September 5th, 2012 at 5:00 am
For years, my husband Kenn has taken animals from his pet store to visit nursing homes and day centers for the elderly. He has seen first hand how seniors brighten up when they interact with his animals.
According to SkilledNursingFacilities.org, seniors get noticeable health benefits from interacting with animals. “Lowered blood pressure and stress levels have been the most researched and noted. Other effects are increased sense of security, increased communication, and even a slight lessening of the progress of dementia.”
A close family member of ours has been diagnosed with Alzheimers and now lives on a dementia unit. Kenn visits once a week and often takes our soft-coated Wheaton terrier, Hazel, along. Last week, I went too.
Kenn loves his Hawaiian shirts and bought a matching one for Hazel, so they looked pretty cute together. From the minute we walked into the lobby, people started to laugh and clap for them. Hazel was amazingly patient, walking calmly from one resident to the next, letting everyone pet her.
I’m not sure what brought out the biggest smiles: the matching Hawaiian shirts or the joy of petting our puppy, but it was clear that everyone loved Hazel.
If you have a friend or family member living in a nursing home, ask if you can bring your well-behaved pet for a visit. There are also many programs around the country, like Wags for Hope in Frederick, MD, that train volunteers and their animals to visit nursing homes. What a wonderful way for the whole family to give back to the seniors in your community.