Pet therapy programs have expanded all over the country, reaching people in all age groups and meeting a wider variety of health needs. Though seeing eye dogs are still an option, now there are therapy llamas for hospice patients, monkeys that help quadriplegic individuals at home, guide horses, therapy dogs for stroke recovery patients, donkeys in school classrooms, and so much more. Check out this MSN.com Healthy Living slideshow of unusual therapy and service animals to see them in action.
In assisted living communities, service animals care for residents in a number of ways. Some come in for regular visits through programs like Pets on Wheels, others reside there full-time (more and more, senior living communities are introducing “house pets” to the mix because of the far-reaching benefits to staff, residents and visiting family members). Lonely, isolated or socially withdrawn individuals enjoy the companionship, residents with dementia, chronic diseases, or other terminal illnesses find comfort and joy, and some seniors with mobility issues may find that walking the community dog helps them regain balance or stability.
At home, seniors who live alone or have recently lost a spouse or partner may find that regular visits from a service animal or a long-term, live-in pet therapy arrangement are just the boost they need.
Learn more about pet therapy and its benefits here.