In times of the deterioration of one’s health, maintaining physical and mental well-being is crucial in sustaining a comfortable lifestyle, especially in hospice. Therapy through pets has proven to bring countless benefits to fulfilling emotional needs, as well as having positive impacts on physical health.
Therapy pets used in hospice can bring comfort through physical contact, offering emotional support and warmth necessary to maintain a healthy mental and emotional state. The loving personality and reassuring presence of therapy pets have been proven to improve the moods of hospice patients, as well as reduce anxiety. In fact, the benefit of therapy pets has been traced back to the time of Florence Nightingale, as she believed in the importance and impact that therapy pets can have on a patient’s emotional state.
The physical benefits of a hospice pet include things such as:
- Reducing physical pain
- Lowering blood pressure
- Promoting heart health through an improved heart rate
- Decrease physical pain
- Make pain medication more effective
- The overall increase in comfort level
All of these are crucial for the health of a patient in hospice. At a time when the comfort of the patient is valued above all else, these key changes can dramatically boost the quality of life for a patient in hospice.
Mental Health Benefits
In terms of mental health benefits, hospice pet therapy brings countless benefits to a patient, such as increasing joy while reducing feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. It gives patients a means of distraction from physical and mental anguish, and they can build a healthy, nurturing connection with a comforting pet. Pet therapy can increase socialization, reduce boredom, and lower feelings of anxiety and loneliness as well. Therapy with these pets can range from needing silent comfort to loud, spirited laughter. Depending on each patient, pets are able to detect their needs and fulfill them accordingly.
Aside from patient testimonies, numerous studies have reported reduced blood pressure and anxiety through interactions with pets, and scientists found that a greater number of interactions with pets ultimately led to the production of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin at higher levels. These hormones, known as the “happy hormones,” are vital to the happiness and emotional stability of a person, and they can be especially crucial for a patient in hospice, showing that this demographic can especially benefit from pet therapy.
Therapy pets can also stimulate memories and promote communication, consequently aiding the patient in nurturing connections with family members. Therapy pets provide an essential form of companionship that comes with judgment-free interactions and a safe space for the patient to feel comforted and secure. They are able to help fill a missing void for a patient and help bring comfort that might’ve been otherwise long lost. The activities promoted by the presence of a therapy pet can brighten the days of a hospice patient, as they are able to do a wide range of things, such as playing fetch, silent support, talking to or cuddling the pet, or interacting with the pet through tricks. Regardless of the activity, it will surely fill the patient’s day with warmth and positivity and, most importantly, an outlet of support and comfort.
Types of Therapy Pets
Surprisingly, different pets are able to fulfill different needs of a hospice patient. Dogs, the most popular choice for pet therapy, are appreciated for their loving and compassionate presence, and their ability to read subtle emotional and physical cues from patients enables the pets to connect with the patient thoroughly. On the other hand, cats provide a quiet, loving presence and promote a profound emotional connection with patients. Cats are one of the most requested pets for therapy, coming in second only to dogs. Rabbits are a popular choice for those allergic to cats and dogs, and with their small, fluffy presence, they can provide a calming and silent companionship for their patient. Miniature horses can provide a kind companionship that promotes communication and bonding. Lastly, birds offer a fun and entertaining form of therapy for patients. Their bright and cheerful presence can bring laughter and enjoyment to patients in hospice.
The Main Takeaway
Regardless of the pet, pet therapy has countless proven emotional and physical benefits that can significantly improve the quality of life for a patient in hospice through laughter, comfort, and companionship.