Alternative therapies & helps of all kinds are being researched and used on a trial basis all across the country in the care of our elderly citizens, and especially in the care of those with Alzheimer's & different dementias. In speaking with health care practitioners, you will find a number of therapies that might seem logical, clinical & sterile. You will also find just as many that are difficult to explain, but seem to have very consistent and very promising results. One of these therapies would be the use of animals with patients. But why would an animal be able to help an elderly person, especially one that is struggling greatly with memory problems?
- We all have a need for companionship, but as we age, the need is amplified by the circumstances around us. Our friends and family being to pass away. We're often bound by physical problems to stay in our own home or neighborhood. We may not have the skills to communicate using some of the newer technology that many of the younger generation seem to use for all of their communication. Animals can help to bridge that gap. They are obviously not able to fully fill the void left by human companionship, but they make a beginning by making us feel comfortable and calm, completely lacking in judgment and criticism & for being loyal.
- Studies have been done that show the effects of having an aquarium in elder care facilities. They can help by lowering blood pressure & anxiety levels of those who watch them. Having dogs, cats & birds around can also have a similar outcome, provided they are generally calm animals.
- This one may seem silly to some of us, but it really can help with the upkeep of communication. People generally talk to the animals that they live with. Some people tell them about their day, or comment on their surrounding for them. Having an animal around can help keep communication skills sharp. It can also aid in giving an elderly person something to communicate about to others. If a neighbor comes to visit, the animal can quickly become a subject of conversation that would help to span other potentially silent moments during the visit.
- We all know that animals will draw children. There are definitely benefits to the elderly of having children around. They add life & vitality to otherwise dull days. Having an animal in the home or facility with elderly patients can make the place much more inviting & much more natural feeling for children to visit. If they feel as if it's inviting, they'll be more likely to come back for a visit.
- We all know that animals require care. Much of that care can be carried out by the responsible elderly patient. There may be a bit that they need help with, & if their memory issues are getting more intense, it's especially important to have someone double check that they've fed or watered the animal, etc. But, the care for an animal is a good way to keep them outward looking rather than inward looking all of the time. It can be a tendency for some aging individuals to only be concerned with what is going on within their world to the neglect of anyone or anything around them. This helps to alleviate that a bit & help them to remember that they are responsible for others, as well.
Animals can benefit nearly everyone in some way, but especially the elderly. We do not need to understand all of the science behind why it works to enjoy those benefits. We are just glad that it DOES work!