We all cherish the unconditional love and special connections pets provide to enrich our lives. It’s no surprise that people suffering from memory impairment find animals and pet therapy to be a mood enhancer. Research supports that animals provide health benefits including lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the “stress hormone” cortisol and boosting the levels of the “feel good hormone” serotonin.
At The Greens, families are encouraged to bring their pets for a visit with their loved one. Findley and Harry, both golden retrievers, are regular visitors to The Greens at Greenwich through a partnership with the Good Dog Foundation. It is common to see a resident go from anxious or sleepy to joyful and smiling when Findley or Harry enter the room. Just as new connections are made between the residents, new connections are made with the dogs and even Findley and Harry have become friends outside their visits to The Greens. Recently, the residents enjoyed Harry’s arrival on Halloween dressed as Harry Potter.
Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal and also involves the animal’s handler. It usually involves a dog or cat. It is used in many different ways and builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond.
Recently The Greens at Greenwich installed an aquarium in their front living area. Residents are enjoying their new family of fish providing a sense of soothing calm and serenity, as water flows, fish swim and bubbles float. Studies have shown that aquariums reduce anxiety and stress with their vibrant colors and moving water. Caregivers also appreciate the benefits of aquariums as they create positive environments and help extend attention spans for those with memory impairment.
Studies have shown spending time around an aquarium increases residents’ intake of healthy foods. A 2002 study, conducted by researchers at Purdue University, used fish aquariums daily over a two-week period and then a six-week period with 62 Alzheimer’s patients. The outcome was that patient’s nutritional intake increased during the first two weeks and continued to do so during the next six-week period. The patients required less nutritional supplementation, helping to reduce overall costs of their care. Researchers at Purdue University also found that displaying tanks of brightly colored fish may curtail disruptive behaviors as well as improving eating habits.
We love our new fish aquarium. We love Harry and Findlay and all the other pets who visit us. Rain or shine, good days or bad days, it is always a pleasure to have a dog wagging his/her tail, a kitten licking your hand or a calming tank of fish.