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Resident’s Best Friend – The Benefits of Pet Therapy in Long-Term Care

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Residents of Skyview Nursing Center interact with visiting dog, Barker Mayfield.

By: Ashley Strehl - Managing Editor of Print and Digital Publications

When it comes to long-term care, activities directors, nursing aids and a lot of other members of our healthcare team at Voyage Long Term Care strive to find ways to keep the residents stimulated, happy and healthy. The love of four-legged friends is just one of the ways our team of caregivers are achieving those three important aspects of quality care.

An Oak Hills Care Center resident is overwhelmed while meeting Hyde's dog, Scout.

The love of a pet, whether it be a dog or a cat, is something that many individuals of all ages would agree improves overall mood and morale. When it comes to senior citizens and individuals within long-term care communities, studies show that Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT), aka, pet therapy, increases self-esteem and ability to show gentleness and caring. “I think it gives residents an overall sense of happiness,” Activities Director at Skyview Nursing Center, Amy Presley, said. Presley also mentioned that she has seen pet therapy improve social skills and reduce the risk of depression and feelings of loneliness. “It also keeps them active and have more of a will to thrive.” Presley said.

Oak Hills Karaoke preformer, Adena, brings her service dogs to interact with the residents every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Several studies claim that when you pet or cuddle an animal, your body releases endorphins and other hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin and dopamine.

These natural hormones reduce restlessness, disorientation, and aggressive behavior, and they can improve short-term memory, communication skills, and even eating habits. “Pet therapy is wonderful, especially for those with dementia or Alzheimer's,” Activities Director at Oak Hills Care Center, Bobbi Thomas, said. “It can trigger a memory from their past, and it’s really great to see a smile on a face that usually looks lost, scared or confused.”

A Skyview resident looks into the loving eyes of visiting furry friend, Mayfield.

All of our communities across Edmond Healthcare Center, Oak Hills Care Center and Skyview Nursing Center allow residents to own one small dog or cat. However, the most common form of pet therapy used across our long-term care communities is visitation therapy. “Residents who never smile or talk get a huge smile on their face when they see a dog walk in,” Business Development Manager at Centric Home Health and Hospice, Taylor Hyde, who brought her dog, Scout, to Oak Hills Care Center on Thursday said. “Most dementia residents can remember things from their childhood a lot better than things from their adulthood. So, when they see a dog, it may remind them of the dog they had as a child, and their face just lights up.”

Oak Hills Care Center Resident's pup, Lu Lu, who has lived with the resident for 5 years.

Members of our team and local community connections often volunteer to bring their furry friends to our long-term care community for an afternoon of fetch, petting and fun. This method is beneficial to both the residents and the overall community because residents can spend time with these caring creatures with all the benefits of therapy without all the maintenance that comes with owning the pet such as feeding and cleaning up after them.

An Oak Hills resident is greeted by visiting four legged friend, Scout.

The benefits of pet therapy are across the board. Nothing quite compares to the unconditional love of man’s best friend, and there’s no limit to what our team of healthcare professionals and community connections will do to make our residents happy. “There’s something about an animals love that is beyond pure and never-ending, and I think it truly radiates into the hearts of others around them,” Hyde said.


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