Depression is a serious problem for the elderly. The inability to do the normal day to day activities because of their health, the death of a spouse or loved one, and isolation from friends and family can all take their toll on an elderly person’s well being. Although training for therapists includes specific care for their elderly patients, it may be a better course of action to help the elderly avoid the need for psychotherapy. One way to do this is for them to have a pet or be exposed to pet therapy.
Having a pet can be a very positive force in an elderly person’s life. If they live alone the benefits of having a pet are even more profound. Pets give their lives structure and companionship. Pets alleviate loneliness, reduce depression and anxiety, and help an elderly person cope with the loss of a loved one. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario have proven that people who have pets are more active and have a more positive outlook on life. These finding have been backed up by a paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
A study by the Mayo Clinic uncovered some interesting facts about elderly pet ownership:
1) Pet ownership reduces doctor’s visits by 21%.
2) Alzheimer’s patients stay in the present more if they own a pet.
3) Seniors who do not have pets see a significant decrease over time in their physical and mental well being.
4) Nursing home patients that engage in pet therapy have an increase in social and verbal interaction.
These statistics support the benefits of pets and pet therapy. Even seniors who are physically disabled show less signs of depression than those who did not have pets or were not exposed to pet therapy.
Many therapists and counselors are recognizing the positive effect that pet therapy can have on their patients. Nursing homes are using pet therapy and some even have live-in pets for residents to interact with. Volunteers also bring their pets in for elderly patients to spend time with several times a week.
The goal of psychotherapy is to help people live better lives and have a greater sense of well being. If therapy is needed, the benefits can be increased by pets and pet therapy. Many programs that provide training for therapists now include pet therapy. It is a valuable and useful course of treatment than can help the elderly avoid the need for psychotherapy.