What has four legs, like to wag its tail and has the ability to lower blood pressure and naturally increase the production of oxytocin, thereby lowering our stress levels?
That’s right Rover is good for more than fetching things. A dog or cat or guinea pig or any other animal used in the correct manner by a caregiver and care receiver can do a lot to lift the spirits and take large bites of time out of the caregiving journey.
Studies have shown that when a person has a connection with an animal it can assist them to feel more socially involved and that the ailing and aged when visited by an animal are more receptive to medications, therapies and even nutrition.
Animal interactions have a way of bringing back memories of past pets. Suddenly daughter finds out that when Mom was 13 she had a dog named Pixie that wore tutus or the grandson who listens with rapt attention as Grandpa tells of his faithful hunting dogs and their mighty conquests.
However there are few things to keep in mind before adding pet therapy into your caregiving routine:
What type of animal would be most comforting? – If Mom is afraid of dogs, a large Rottweiler coming for a visit would probably not be a good thing. However, a small Chihauhua or cat might be a better fit.
Why is the animal coming for a visit? – If the goal is to let Dad exercise his hands by petting a lap cat or older dog would be a better choice than a puppy or skittish kitten. However, if a game of fetch is preferred than something with more pep is your best bet.
What is the temperament of the animal? – It has been found that some animals have the ability to change their temperament to that of those around them. Animals that are normally balls of energy will be quite calm around those who are sick or depressed. It seems these animals have the ability to feel our pain, our stress and our joys. However, not all animals are so blessed so pick your animal visitor wisely and with your loved one in mind.
When is the best time to visit and for how long? – As a caregiver you probably have a good idea of when your loved one is at his or her best. Scheduling your animal interaction during this time is key as it sets everyone involved up for the best experience possible. If for instance you were to schedule your sister’s cat to come for a visit during bath time, the cat would probably not be too happy nor would your loved one. Plus by setting a time limit it ensures that you will not be left caring for your loved one and a trying to take the dog for a walk.
Adding animals to your caregiving routine can be a bit of a hassle, but the memories and smiles you share with your loved one might give you the incentive to find this type of therapy just purrfect!