With the residents’ need for meaningful relationships while enjoying their stay at a care home, we look into how providing pet therapy can help reduce their mental and physical health issues while also proving to be a great marketing means for your establishment.

Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, involves the use of animals (usually dogs or cats) in a therapeutic setting to improve an individual’s emotional, mental, or physical wellbeing. Pet therapy can offer numerous benefits for seniors living in a care home setting.

First and foremost, pet therapy can help to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Care home residents may feel disconnected from the outside world, and pet therapy can provide them with an opportunity to interact with a friendly animal and form a bond with them. The presence of an animal can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, providing a calming influence in an otherwise unfamiliar environment.

Founder of Therapy Dogs Nationwide, Eileen Slattery, said: “Being able to see and interact with animals, specifically our dogs that are calm, controlled and identifiable as they wear livery, will bring an array of benefits to residents. Representing an act of ‘normality’, it will even help them recall stories from their past.”

Pet therapy can also improve physical health. Interacting with animals can be therapeutic in many ways, such as increased mobility and hand-eye coordination, improving cardiovascular health, and even reducing pain perception. Engaging with pets can also promote physical activity, especially for seniors who may be less mobile or have limited opportunities to engage in physical activity.

Care home residents who regularly interact with animals tend to be more active and engaged in their care communities. 

Eileen explained: “Residents can get a bit bored following the same routine every day, so they are drawn to a sense of stupor when we visit. We make sure to approach each resident, and they’ll have a chance to interact with our pets. I remember this one woman who hadn’t spoken for four years, and all of sudden, she was chatting away at one of our dogs!”

Pets have a remarkable ability to provide emotional support and comfort to seniors, especially those with dementia or other cognitive impairments. In these cases, therapy animals can help elders feel more grounded and connected to reality. Interaction with pets can also improve memory and cognitive functioning, as well as provide an opportunity for socialisation.

“Seniors can’t control much in nursing homes, but they can definitely save a biscuit for the dog for the following week – we deal with dementia a lot, and we know that it helps to create this bond with animals; if residents are feeling uneasy or restless, they calm down. The difference is night and day! Animal interaction brings in a whole new sense of camaraderie,” Eileen added.

Pet therapy can foster a sense of purpose in residents. Caring for an animal can help seniors harbour a feeling of ownership and responsibility, making them feel accomplished and useful in their daily lives. This is especially important in a care home environment when they may feel that they have lost control over their lives.

With advancements in healthcare technology, elders are able to live longer lives, and with longer lives comes a greater need for companionship and social engagement. Therefore, operators should introduce pet therapy into their care homes as an innovative way to boost business and improve residents’ quality of life.

“Volunteers will normally go once a week, but we do special days in case of birthdays or other events because it’s something for them to do, to talk about and reminisce about the old days,” said Eileen. 

Introducing pet therapy into care homes can be a great way to market the home and differentiate it from competitors. Families searching for a care home for their loved one may choose a care home because of its pet therapy program. This can increase occupancy rates and overall revenue for the care home.

Operators can also use pet therapy to increase employee job satisfaction. Interacting with animals can have positive psychological effects on employees, which can lead to a more positive work environment. This can also reduce staff burnout and turnover rates, leading to higher quality care for the residents.

In conclusion, pet therapy is a beneficial and innovative way for operators to improve their residents’ quality of life, differentiate their business from competitors, and improve employee job satisfaction. By introducing pet therapy into care homes, operators can improve the emotional, physical, and social wellbeing of seniors in their care and increase revenue for their businesses.