For some people, pets are just like family. They greet you at home with a wagging tail and kisses after a long day of work and are always up for a game of fetch or a walk around the block. But when senior adults move away from their home to an assisted living community, they might not be able to have their companion make the move too. The Arbors at Dracut has found a way for residents and staff to connect with animals – right here in the community.Animal-assisted therapy has become increasingly popular in the United States over the past several years. Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is when animals, usually dogs, are used to help people cope with health issues or reduce anxiety and stress. When humans interact with animals, research has proven the overall improvement in older adult’s health and well-being. It’s a boost to their overall mood. That’s why, twice a month The Arbors at Dracut has pet therapy for residents and staff to enjoy.
Joyce Hamlyn, Program & Obedience Committee Chair of Yankee Golden Retriever Club, and two golden retrievers, Prince and Thor, visit with residents. “They’ve been coming here every other week since April and the staff and residents look forward to their visit every time. Everyone enjoys it when they’re here. The smiles on their faces when they pet the dogs is priceless,” says Judi Parisi, Activities Director at The Arbors at Dracut.
Companionship & Stress-Reliever Interacting with the therapy dogs, can create a sense of companionship for the residents. The moment Prince and Thor walk through the doors, you can feel an instant change in mood. Everyone’s face, including staff members, has a smile spread across their cheeks. It gives everyone in the room a sense of joy and calmness, especially those who are struggling with loneliness or depression. The effects of pet therapy have also shown to improve cognitive impairment for those with dementia. It’s not just for assisted living residents, memory care residents also enjoy being around the dogs and benefit from their visits.
Reducing anxiety and having a place to relieve stress is another great benefit of the pet therapy sessions. If a resident is having behavioral issues or a tough day, Prince and Thor can help calm their mood. When staff members are feeling overwhelmed, they also benefit from interacting with Prince and Thor. “It’s one of the events where not only the resident looks forward to it, but the staff members do too,” says Judi.
A few strokes of petting Prince and Thor can really brighten a resident’s day. Plus, the dogs enjoy being pet, too. It’s also a way for residents who used to own a pet feel a connection with an animal again.