Symptoms: Lower blood pressure. Diminished pain. Lifted spirits. Increased socialization. Reduced loneliness.
Diagnosis: Puppy love.
Having a pet has proven to help get senior living community residents into shape all over the country when it comes to boosting morale and decreasing anxiety. That’s why most Capital Senior Living communities — from Spring Meadows Summit in Summit, NJ to The Waterford on Highland Colony in Ridgeland, MS and Crosswood Oaks in Citrus Heights, CA to Independence Village of Olde Raleigh in Raleigh, NC — allow small pets in residents’ comfortable apartments. Some accommodations, including Sugar Grove in Plainfield, IN; The Harbor Court in Rocky River, OH; and Buffalo Creek in Waxahachie, TX; even go so far as to have community pets for residents who may not be able to house an animal on their own but love the attention of an animal friend from time to time. We take our promise seriously when it comes to enriching the lives of our residents by providing an environment that is physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally stimulating, and our attitude toward pets is a natural continuation of that mindset.
Animals provide a lot of love every day of the year in our communities. So it’s quite apropos that February, a month already designated for human love, also includes a day where humans can show their affection for man’s best friend. Love Your Pet Day, set to be celebrated on Feb. 20, 2015, encourages Capital Senior Living residents to give their pets an extra hug or kiss, share a special treat or even get out and enjoy an extra 30 minutes or hour walking and playing in well-manicured courtyards — as long as the weather cooperates.
It’s the 365-day cooperation of our furry friends, though, that really hits home for so many of our Memory Care residents. While therapy animals have long been used to assist the blind or disabled, they are fast becoming a popular means of engaging residents with Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with dementia tend to be more apathetic, restless, irritable and depressed and therefore tend to pull themselves out of the mix of social interaction. Research has shown that, with regular interaction with a pet, these individuals become more like their old selves again because dogs are non-judgmental and show unconditional love.
Having a pet or pets in the community can also be great motivation for our seniors to exercise. It gives residents a great reason to get out and take their best friend on a short stroll — great cardio exercise. Four-legged friends also are great for jogging the memories of individuals who had positive childhood experiences with their animal.
According to Paws for People, a volunteer pet-assisted visitation service based in Newark, DE, pet therapy can have strong physical and mental benefits for all residents — whether in Independent Living, Assisted Living or Memory Care. When residents pet a four-legged friend, it produces an automatic, calming relaxation response that helps put seniors at ease, thanks to an endorphin release. Lower blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health can be some of the other positive effects.
Residents who don’t receive a lot of visitors or don’t have enough communication with their loved ones normally find four-legged friends to be great companions that reduce loneliness. While the vast array of recreational and entertainment programming at our communities keeps residents plenty busy, pets sometimes help reduce the boredom that can set in. Don’t forget, though, that therapy or companion pets must have a pleasant temperament, be comfy with strangers, not be startled easily and prove to be generally quiet.
While sharing the month of love with your friends and family, it’s important to remember your four-legged friends can help celebrate as well.
Source: www.alzheimersproject.org; www.pawsforpeople.org; www.aplaceformom.com
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