The amount of people that live in assisted living and nursing homes is over 1. 4 billion people in the United States alone (“Nursing Home Care”). This number is high and ever changing, but the numbers only change due to the degradation of people from a functional state to a state of needing help to perform everyday tasks. This feeling of relying on others for everything can cause people go into depression or other mental states. Many people cannot get out of that state with other people, such as staff, around doing activities and exercises along with social gatherings, to keep the mind and motor skills working.
While people who work with the residence may use social interaction to fend off loneliness in these facilities, it only works for a short while due to residence not having friends and family around as often due to location or age. There are other things that can help the mood of every person that pet therapy can provide. Pet therapy is a great resource for nursing and assisted living facilities and should be used to help with loneliness, physical ailments, and the loss of social contact due to being in these facilities. Pets can have many effects on the people they interact with and can have amazing effects.
The effects that dogs have on people are outstanding. Animals, especially dogs, “…enrich our lives in obvious ways … [and] provide us with a distinct physiological, psychological, and social benefits that keep us happy and healthy” (Cusack and Smith 33). The bond of dog and man date back to prehistoric days when people were starting to use dogs for protection, companionship, and to hunt down and kill potential food. As the ages changed, the relationship has strengthened and become “man’s best friends” to the point we idolize our canine companions.
The psychological response that happens in the sight of a dog tend to be of deep seated love and admiration for the undying love that animals give people. In many instances, people are astonished in the love that animals give without judgment, never ending, never changing, and forever forgiving (Addock). Dogs can be a better support to people then the faculty in the facility can to the residence in these facilities. The way dogs can be better to help people then the faculty is with an unspoken connection that dogs have with humans dating back millions of years.
Dogs are social creatures, this fact eans that dogs look at humans as part of their “pack”. This idea shows us how dogs see us in everyday life, some of below the dogs ranking but most are above. The amount of respect that dogs give us shows how true love is given and received. No matter the problem the dogs can sense it but do not react or care what is wrong with us unlike people. This pack mentality and unconditional love help us with our social problems and our emotional well-being. Many people who have social anxiety or social problems have been shown by many observations by handlers and staff that it can help them cope and feel more comfortable with people.
Dogs can make a connection to how and the extent of a person’s positive reaction to the sight and touch of a dog. Many people can have connections with any dogs due to the pack mentality, and the group connection, and the love dogs give. The idea of “man’s best friend” has stemmed from that connection that many people have with animals. So many people will begin to feel lonely and forgotten in nursing homes due to having to: move away from their home, be away from their families, give up their pets, give up their independence, and live with people they don’t know.
Many people feel as though they have to stay to themselves and be alone in these situations due to the circumstances and the changes going on around them. This is a state of insecurity that many of us don’t think of with this group. The elderly are just as uneasy and overly aware as anyone else would be being uprooted, having to depend on others, losing independence, and having to live with new people, knowing nobody (Addock). In this state they feel as though no one understands or cares about that feeling and can sometimes turn to depression.
Staff may try to help with activities, games, trips, socials, and entertainers, but some people never leave their rooms to participate. In most facilities, there is no activity that goes room to room seeing if they would like to participate. There is not enough time to do so. Pet assisted therapy, however can do that and be successful in a one on one basis and encourage people to interact if they normally would stay away from the activities planned. The staff is a great source of interaction but many still feel lonely in those situations with no family or old friends.
Loneliness is a huge problem in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the country. Pets can be used to help people with social interactions with many activates that the facility has planned. Meanwhile the fact of loneliness in these facilities leads to the problem of how to prevent it and how to reduce it after they may feel that way. As stated earlier, pet therapy is an option that can be used to help with social activities and events but many still do not participate in these events. There has been accounts of people becoming more social after a pet begins working at a facility.
People who are not social or do not what to leave their “area” that they are comfortable in. Many people light up when the dogs walk through their door. On certain account there have been people who do not interact with anything but have interacted with dogs. This is the impact dogs can have on people in different in different areas and needs. Loneliness is one major problem many facilities have in their residence and can be combated with activities and therapies but that is only one issue people can face in these facilities.
Many people lose vital social skills with people they are uncomfortable with, many people stay to themselves due to fear or judgment and being pushed away for the mental, social, and physical reasons they are there for. Pet assisted therapy can help get people out of their rooms became “It cheers … [them] up when … [they] see the dogs come out” (Unland). Many people feel as though they are inadequate after they must go into a “home”; losing a sense of independence can cause people to be reclusive to retain their sense of independence in their own space.
The pets don’t only help the social aspect by getting them out of their rooms they also “… provide a means of positive non-verbal communication that is reassuring and comforting” (Cusack and Smith 36). With these evident problems of reduced sense of independence and social interactions are very common while they do not always have to happen to people in these facilities. Many people still enjoy the interactions of animals that pet assisted therapy provides. Quite a few people have had pets once or more in their lives or always wanted to.
The aspect of companionship is partially important to the elderly who may be isolated from contact except for an animal companion” (Cusack and Smith 36) many people who these dogs encounter are a sense of security and a point of conversation that have people more open to interacting and having conversations with people they do not see every day. Dogs and other animals are an amazing way for other human interactions through the love and compassion of the animals (Addcock). Many people have had hard times and bad experiences.
Many people such, as war veterans, may have a barrier with other people or may not be open to others helping them recover or live their days the best they can. Many times in those situations dogs have been used for the simple reason of letting the person relax in that position. Some people may have social anxiety and are uncomfortable in another person’s presence. Therapy dogs have been shown to help people with those problems open up due to the animal almost erasing the presences of the handler. Very often the person living in the facility will forget the handler is in the room with them.
This “erasing” lets the person relax and forget the situation at hand for them. This is only one way that dogs are helping people relax, forget, cope, and handle situations they are dealing with in these facilities (Addcock). Then the interactions with dogs can be shown to have a certain “connection” with people and can have a bond with certain people and dogs without ever meeting before. Dogs and humans have been shown to have a mental connection, to where people can have a certain reaction that they may not have with a person, since the start of time.
Many people feel it’s a “false idea” that man and dog can have a connection that surpasses the emotional response of love and affection. Dogs have been shown to have physical responses such as lowering blood pressure, release of chemicals, and reducing stress (Cusack and Smith). This idea has been shown countless times through body language, emotional response, facial expressions, and scientific studies/surveys. Many times the most noticeable reaction is the outer physical response by the patients to the dog coming into the room and the facility.
Many people think of the smiles, the laughs, and the possible tears of joy. These are only a few of the responses people can have in the events such as the dogs coming to visit. With the connection that people have and how they react can tell the handler about their mental states and their challenges they must tackle to show reaction or make words when they get excited. At the Commons at Brightmore, One man was non-responsive to every source of stimuli where he could react to. He was mobile, and functional but