Many pet owners can't imagine living without their dogs or cats, but when they are hospitalized, they often have to part with one of their greatest sources of comfort. Fortunately, many hospitals and senior living communities across the United States are recognizing the benefits animals have for seniors, especially when they are being treated for an injury or illness.
Do dogs have the best bedside manners?
The New York Times recently reported the story of Delilah, a fluffy Maltese who was allowed into the hospital to pay a visit to her owner, Ruth London,74, who was receiving intensive care for pneumonia and hallucinations. The dog comforted her bed-ridden owner and snapped her slightly out of her delirium. London's condition reportedly took a turn for the better. Despite these apparent benefits of the canine visitor, the hospital promptly decided that no family pets would be allowed in the hospital for visits.
While many hospitals across the country stand by this same policy, more and more are allowing pets in along with spouses, children and other visitors, the Times reports. Others have worked around the no-pets policy by offering programs in which trained therapy pets come in to visit patients.
Benefits of pets for seniors
Hospitals that are incorporating pets into aspects of care have a great body of research to back them up. Numerous studies have shown the many emotional benefits pets can have on individuals, whether or not they are in poor health. HelpGuide.org reports that pet owners have lower blood pressure and are less likely to suffer from depression than those without furry friends. The organization also states that playing with pets can boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, promoting calmness and relaxation. Such evidence makes it clear that animals can have a positive physiological effect.
However, the benefits don't necessarily stop there. Pets have been proven to play an important role in the aging process, giving seniors a sense of purpose and meaning in life, as well as helping them stay connected with other people and encouraging more physical activity, the website reports. They also offer companionship and help seniors cope with some of the more challenging aspects of aging, such as losing loved ones.
Pets improve senior health
Knowing the copious benefits animals have for seniors, some assisted living and senior living communities are allowing residents to bring their pets with them when they move in. Sunrise Senior Living communities are pet-friendly. In addition to welcoming residents' pets, we have a cat and dog who live full-time at each community to provide comfort to all. These pets are carefully selected to interact well with seniors and are managed by Sunrise team members for seniors who feel less comfortable with animals.