Isn’t it funny, that many of us identify ourselves as either a “dog person” or a “cat person?” It always makes me smile when that question is asked, and without a hesitation you will get a response as one or the other. It has become a question that is asked while you are getting to know someone. We all love our furry friends; in fact we can’t live without them! If you think about it, our pets are our family; they bring us joy, we take them to the doctor, we feed them, we walk with them, take them on trips, praise them, scold them, play with them. We treat our furry bundles of joy as if they’re our children. A pet has a way to put us at ease and make us smile; they are companions that share their unconditional love for us!
Our loved ones that have Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia, never lose their compelling want to take care of and love our four-legged friends. In fact, having a dog or a cat involved with the care of our loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s is vital; this is Pet Therapy. I am a firm believer in Pet Therapy because I have used Pet Therapy for my therapeutic programming.
I had a resident who was severely depressed and had jumbled speech; very rarely could you understand what she was saying. Personally, I felt defeated because I couldn’t make a lasting connection with her; I felt that I could not make her happy. One day, I brought my dog, Izzy, in for the day, it was her 21st birthday in dog years and we were celebrating her birthday together. We threw her a big bash. Izzy immediately went to my resident that had been struggling, jumped up on the chair next to my resident and began licking my resident's hands. All of a sudden, my resident starts laughing, and petting Izzy saying she was a “good girl” and she was telling her, “I love you.” It was that moment where my eyes filled up because, not only was my resident able to speak to Izzy, but she was happy!
Our four-legged friends bring happiness to our residents and allow our residents to fulfill their internal need to care after and nurture them. Pet Therapy is proven to reduce agitation, encourage physical activity, improve eating, and create pleasure for loved ones with Dementia. If all it takes is a visit with our four-legged friends to secure happiness then we should all live in a world where our four-legged friends are part of our everyday! Therapy comes in many forms. In this case, it is a therapy based on our lovable, cuddly, furry, and cute pets that hold a special place in all of our hearts!
This blog post was writted by Jazzmine CVitan, Avita Program Director at Carriage House at Lee's Farm in Wayland, MA. If someone you know could benefit from the wonderful work Jazzmine and her team provide their residents, do not hesitate to call 508-358-2800.