Let’s connect

Innovative therapy for seniors: pet therapy

Throughout history, animals have been companions to humans, offering unconditional love and support when we need it most. Anyone who has ever been greeted by an excited dog at the end of a long day or enjoyed the quiet rumble of a cat’s purr in their lap at night understands the calming, happy effect an animal can have on us.

In fact, recent studies have revealed that as little as fifteen minutes of bonding time with an animal promotes positive hormonal changes in the brain. Serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone, is produced, allowing our stress levels to drop. Plus, animals provide a wide array of other benefits to seniors, improving their physical, mental, social and emotional health.

Because of all the amazing benefits animals can provide, many skilled nursing facilities across the country are utilizing pet therapy for therapeutic purposes. Therapy animals are used to promote health and healing for seniors of all ages or health conditions, regardless of whether they are chronically ill, suffer from depression, memory loss or other ongoing disabilities.

The benefits of pet therapy for seniors

Pet therapy for seniors is also known as Animal Assisted Therapy. This technique uses animals to interact with seniors for numerous reasons, with the goal being to improve their overall quality of life. Some of the benefits therapy animals provide to seniors include:

Reduced stress and blood pressure: The simple act of touching an animal can result in lower stress levels and blood pressure.

Emotional stability during stressful situations: When an elderly person is dealing with a chronic illness or perhaps the passing of a spouse, animals help to reduce anxiety and depression.

Improved physical health and mobility: Walking, grooming and feeding an animal can increase a senior’s physical skills, keeping them more active and mobile.

Increased socialization: Animals listen without judgment and give unbiased affection, providing the social contact an isolated senior may need.

Providing a sense of purpose: Caring for an animal allows seniors to feel useful and responsible for something, leading to a boosted self-esteem.

Using therapy animals in your skilled nursing facility

Because of the benefits we’ve explored here, it’s highly recommended to adopt a pet therapy policy in your skilled nursing facility. After policies and procedures have been reviewed and established, determine what types of animals would best meet the needs of your residents. It’s also important to consider how much training will be required for staff members, or if an outside agency will be hired. Having access to animals can improve your residents’ well-being and provide new meaning to their lives.

Skilled nursing solutions from MatrixCare

MatrixCare’s skilled nursing software solution is user-friendly and centered on your residents. Our EHR software helps to improve outcomes, quality of care, workflows, and reduce readmission rates at your facility. Contact us today to learn more.

Kevin Whitehurst
Kevin Whitehurst

Kevin Keith Whitehurst, Senior Vice President, Skilled Nursing Solutions, has been a key player in LTPAC technology since 1990. Whitehurst has held many leadership positions including IT Director for one of the first developers of MDS software systems to, most recently, SVP, Client Services for MatrixCare. In his current role, he is responsible for the success of the Skilled Nursing Solutions Group and oversees Product Management, Professional Services, Sales and Marketing, and Client Support for that group. A 26 year veteran, Whitehurst has dedicated his career to improving Skilled Nursing Providers experience with technology. Whitehurst holds degrees from San Bernardino Valley College and the Los Angeles School of Business and also served in the U.S Air Force.

elderly man and woman petting a dog for pet therapy

Back to blog

Learn more about how our services can help you succeed.