Animal Therapy and Healthier Residents in Oceanside Nursing Homes

christopher-ayme-157131-copy-300x200Oceanside nursing home residents and their families should consider learning more about therapy animals and how they could help to improve the general health and quality of life for seniors who reside in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Southern California. According to a recent article in U-T San Diego, animal therapy is becoming more prominent in California and throughout the country, more residents in long-term care facilities are considering the benefits of therapy animals. An article in Psychology Today discusses a recent study that addresses the impact of therapy dogs in nursing homes and the question of whether they could help to improve the emotional health of seniors in these facilities.

It is important to raise public awareness about issues concerning nursing home abuse and neglect in order to prevent such incidents from happening. At the same time, seniors who reside in these facilities need to be in good emotional and psychological health in order to engage in self-care, and to have the strength to report incidents of abuse or neglect when they arise. In addition, when seniors are subject to nursing home abuse, they need strong immune systems to fight injuries. Emotional and psychological health impacts physical health and the immune system—when one falters, the other can, too. Can therapy animals have this effect?

Animals Visitation Programs and Therapy Dogs in Long-Term Care Settings

The article in Psychology Today discusses a study that appeared in the journal Psychogeriatrics. In short, it suggests that therapy animals do not have a measurable impact on the “cognitive abilities of the residents or their level of depression or their psychiatric symptoms or their ability to function in everyday life.” The study examined the results of therapy dogs on a group of seniors in long-term care facilities over a six-week period of interaction with the animals. But is this study sufficient to say that therapy animals have no benefit at all on the emotional or psychological health of seniors? After all, the study did not that “the residents in the therapy dog group did sleep better for a little while.”

According to the article, the study was the first of its kind to investigate the “impact of animal visitations on people living in nursing homes.” In many ways, the study may be indicative of the power of therapy animals—or lack thereof—given that it has a “reasonably large sample size, random assignment of participants to the real and fake conditions, multiple research sites, and objective behavioral measures.” While the article explains that researchers were not able to link sessions with therapy dogs to “remissions in depression” or the ability to “Relieve the soul-stealing impact of forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s,” it did show that “dog visitations do brighten the days of people living in assisted living facilities.” Many of the participants in the study regularly talked to their therapy dogs, suggesting that the presence of the animal was having some kind of impact.

Learn More About Therapy Animals and Nursing Home Health

Therapy dogs are not service dogs, a fact sheet from the National Service Animal Registry (NSAR) makes clear. Unlike service dogs, “the primary purpose of a therapy animal is to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties.” While the study mentioned above suggests that therapy dogs do not have significant long-term effects on serious health issues for nursing home residents, we do know that loneliness can play a role in a senior’s emotional health and physical well-being. As such, therapy dogs may provide benefits that we cannot yet measure.

If you have questions about rules and regulations concerning therapy animals in nursing homes, or if you have concerns about elder abuse, an Oceanside nursing home abuse lawyer can speak with you today. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about the services we provide in Southern California.

See Related Blog Posts:

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Veteran’s Family Files Elder Abuse Claim Against VA Hospital

(image courtesy of Christopher Ayme)