Pet Therapy for the elderly

Pet-Therapy-1024Do you have a family member or friend confined to an elder care facility? Joe did.  When Joe’s father was in an elder care facility, Joe took Max, the family’s 125 pound Greater Swiss Mountain Dog along on visits to his father.  Joe would hand the lead to his dad, and Max gladly pulled joe’s dad around the elder care facility in his wheelchair.  Not only was Joe’s dad, who always had had dogs, delighted but so were all the other residents whose eyes would light up as they had not for years!  The all wanted to pet Max.  So often when a person must become a resident of an elder care facility they are ripped from their home and from their pet.  Pets provide people willing to visit those in care facilities with a topic of conversation–one most elderly people enjoy sharing with the visitor.

The Lil’ Red Foundation initiative for pet therapy for the elderly was established to ensure that residents in nursing homes have the opportunity to visit and interact with trained and certified animals that volunteers bring to visit.

These visits not only have social benefits, but they have also been found to reduce depression in residents and increase activity between those that live and work in the home. The Lil’ Red Foundation works with the ReCHAI Program of the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and Pets for Life.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson at The University of Missouri was the first professor in the United States to have a dual appointment in the College of Nursing and the College of Veterinary Medicine.  This resulted from her research and other work using pets as therapy for people in long term care facilities.

ReCHAI (Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction) operates as a dynamic collaboration between the University of Missouri-Columbia Sinclair School of Nursing and College of Veterinary Medicine with a mission of educating and conducting programs and studies about the benefits of human-animal interaction.  It is rewarding to see what happens when animals and people are paired for the good of both.

Pets 4 Life Pets for Life is a wonderful opportunity for volunteers to share with others their love of animals and to share themselves. Animals are a common denominator through which people of all ages and capabilities can communicate and express their love.