People with severe illnesses can sometimes feel lonely and stressed. As such, many hospice care in California are now using a unique approach to deal with these issues: pet therapy. Let’s take a look at how it works and how you can take advantage of it to improve your well-being.
What Is Pet Therapy?
Pet therapy refers to the process of using animals to assist patients in coping with their current condition. The idea here is that they can foster companionship with these animals to ease their worries and concerns. In turn, that will help them recover faster or at least have a better state of mind.
The Benefits Of Pet Therapy
While the idea of animals being effective healers has been around for a long time, it is only now that scientists are fully understanding the benefits. These benefits cover a wide range of health areas, providing patients with holistic treatment.
Improves Physical Health
Several studies have shown that interacting with pets can have visible physical effects on the body. These include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better cardiovascular health
- Higher endorphin levels.
- Reduced pain
All of these positive physical developments result in a general sense of wellbeing for the patients. These also help lessen the symptoms of existing illnesses and protect the body from others.
Boosts Mental Health
As mentioned earlier, patients with major illnesses can go through a daunting experience. All those worries and concerns lead to a significant amount of stress. For this, pets can be a source of comfort for them.
Additionally, pets are a great source of socialization for patients who don’t have immediate family members. This reduces boredom and allows them to channel their attention to something more positive. Being around pets can also motivate patients undergoing therapy to strive harder.
Improves Social Engagements
Pet therapy also helps patients improve their social health. For one, having animals around can get them to be more open to caregivers. This makes for better interaction between the two and foster more effective care sessions.
The patient’s family also benefits from the therapy. As it is, they can be under a lot of stress too when thinking about their loved one’s condition. Like the patient, they can use the opportunity as a reliever and as a way to have a more positive outlook.
How Pet Therapy Works In Hospice Care In California
Generally, any animal can be used for pet therapy, as long as patients can connect with them on an emotional level. However, the following species are the most common ones employed.
- Dogs: Arguably the most popular choice because of their ability to read subtle emotions from humans. This makes them very easy to connect with.
- Cats: Another popular choice owing to their domesticated and caring nature.
- PIgs: These are common alternatives for those who might have allergies to dogs or cats. Pigs are highly intelligent animals and can easily bond with humans.
- Rabbits: These are very docile and would suit those patients who want to have a fluffy animal on their lap.
- Birds: The singing of birds can have a calming effect on patients and their families. They can also provide great enjoyment.
- Horses: These might be an odd choice but horses are very easygoing and patients can have a calm session with them. Miniature horses are particularly very popular.
Many hospice organizations already provide several in-house options for those who wish to undergo pet therapy. They can also connect with animal welfare groups for patients who have more specific requests.
The Types Of Pet Therapy Available For Hospices
There are two general types of pet therapy services that a hospice has access two: therapy and visiting animals. Therapy animals are the ones that are involved in long sessions with patients. They are specially trained to perform tasks during these. Additionally, they and their handlers are licensed to take part in formal sessions overseen by a therapist.
The other type of animal used for pet therapies in hospices is the visiting animal. Unlike full-fledged therapy animals, these are not trained to perform specific tasks. Instead, their main role is to simply provide companionship to patients. They do get some training on how to properly interact with patients during these visits.
What A Pet Therapy Session Looks Like
Before an animal is allowed to interact with hospice patients, it undergoes a rigorous evaluation. First off, it is checked to see if it is fully immunized and free of diseases. Overseers also determine if the animal has good interactions with its handler. This serves to gauge its temperament and suitability for interacting with the patient.
The pet and its handler are then assigned to a patient based on their particular needs. For instance, patients who are staying in nursing wards may want to opt for smaller pets. On the other hand, those under home health care services can opt for more active animals since they have a larger space available.
The therapy proper is conducted in a freeform manner depending on the requests of the patient and their families. These sessions typically last between 10-45 minutes. During this time, patients engage with the animals in activities like:
- Petting, holding and cuddling
- Playing games such as fetch
- Watching the animal and their handlers perform tricks
- Just sitting with the pet
- Conversing and answering questions
While these are fairly simple activities, you can get a lot of enjoyment from them. If you are undergoing other procedures like physical therapy, you can also request to do these sessions in the presence of these animals. This can provide added motivation as you go through the treatments.
Some Things To Consider
Pet therapy at a hospice is generally safe. However, there are a few things you might want to consider before signing up for it. One is any history of allergies that you might have. You should also think about your general attitude towards animals. This will help you determine which type of therapy animal to get.
You and your doctor should set realistic goals for what you want the therapy to achieve. Talk to them about how you will achieve these goals and where the therapy will come into play. Constant monitoring will help both of you assess the effectiveness of the program and modify it accordingly.
Boost Your Wellbeing With Lovable Pets
Even if you are staying in hospice care in California, these adorable animal therapists can make you have a positive outlook on your condition. As such, you should not miss the opportunity to have an appointment with these furry friends. Talk with your doctor today to find out if such services are available in your area.