Pet therapy helps residents feel better emotionally and physically. Animals help lift a person’s mood and give them something to focus on outside of themselves. Residents who feel sick, lonely or depressed will often respond to an animal and offer genuine affection and unconditional love. The resident may smile, open their eyes, pet or talk to the animal.
Touching and interacting with animals can help lower a resident’s blood pressure and heart rate and provide stress relief. Residents who have regular visits with pets have longer life spans and suffer from less depression.
Animals increase sensory stimulation, inspire a sense of purpose and increase social interactions with the staff. Pets serve as a valuable conversation starter, and are useful in promoting visitation of children with the elderly. Residents tend to look forward to their visits. They enjoy hearing children tell about their pets.
How does pet therapy work? The animals are non-threatening and non-judgmental. They do not expect anything and there is no pressure on the resident to do or say anything. They accept and are open to whoever the person is and whatever that person needs.
Ombudsman volunteers visit nursing home residents weekly. For more information on the ombudsman program, contact ombudsman supervisors Patricia Shidler, Tonya VanScoyoc, Debra Burris, Eric Locke, or Erin Davis at Areawide Aging Agency at 1-405-942-8500. Group presentations and flexible training schedules are available.