Companion creatures give therapy simply by being with you. Dogs, cats and rabbits sit with you, cuddle, play, walk and rest by your side. Cats calmingly purr. Horses carry you. Fish dazzle and calm by gliding through water. Animals allow you to groom, feed, watch and care for them, and the result is longer, healthier, happier lives for you and them – plus a field of research and vocation that’s booming.
The U.S. Department of Labor expects therapy jobs and positions, including pet and animal-assisted therapy, to grow more than 27 percent in the next decade. More than 90 percent of Americans in both pet-owning and non-pet-owning households told the American Humane Society in a 2012 survey that they believe an animal companion improves lives, especially the lives of people living alone, those who need at-home care, senior citizens, people who are handicapped, and young children.
“The positive effects of pet and animal-assisted therapy are undeniable,”
Increasing evidence shows pet and animal-assisted therapy helps:
-Reduce depression, irritability and agitation, while increasing social engagement for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Mara M. Baun, DNSc, who is with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, has documented for more than a decade how animal visits also foster greater physical activity (when people groom, play with and walk the pets), improved eating, more attempts to communicate, and greater pleasure and happiness (more laughter and smiles during time with the animals).
-Ease anxiety, according to a two-year study that Alberta Health began in 2003, which shows a reduction of symptoms and panic attacks in 80 percent of people given dog companions.
-Decrease sleeplessness and suicidal thoughts from post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise only treated with medication, especially for war veterans and trauma survivors. In one 2011 study by the U.S. Army with the Psychiatric Service Dog Society, 82 percent of people given service dogs reported reduced symptoms within one month.
-Manage pain, particularly with cancer, as cited by The Gale Group, Inc. in a 2010 report on cancer visitation therapy, regarding the effects of dogs spending time with children with cancer.
-Lower hypertension and reduce heart attacks, as noted in a 2005 study at UCLA Medical Center where cardiac patients exhibited lower adrenalin levels associated with stress.
-Foster healing after surgery and invasive medical procedures, even dental appointments, as proven by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., that in 2002 introduced Dr. Jack, a miniature pinscher as its first facility-based service dog.
-Create more happiness and comfort by increasing levels of the hormone oxytocin. In a study by the University of Missouri-Columbia’
“As more people see the overall health benefits of pet and animal-assisted therapy, the practice will continue to grow throughout the U.S.,” said Williams. “It’s inspiring to see the elderly light up when they interact with a pet during their home healthcare experience. Their everyday lives are enriched because of the companionship pets provide.”
About Right at Home
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers home healthcare and companionship and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained, bonded and insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with franchise offices located in 42 states nationwide and throughout the world. For more information on Right at Home, read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/
About Right at Home of Ann Arbor
The Ann Arbor Michigan office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., providing home healthcare to the communities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, Belleville, Plymouth, Chelsea, Dearborn, Canton, Dexter, and beyond. For more information, contact Right at Home of Ann Arbor at http://www.rightathome.net/