Dogs Bring Hope to Alzheimer’s Patients

alzheimer's_service_dog

Photo: Wilderwood.org

All dog lovers know that a dog's presence can be calming and stress-relieving, but research is showing that pets can have a profound effect on people suffering from dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease.

These days, many assisted living facilities adopt a dog or other animal as a resident pet. The residents are able to interact with the animal on a daily basis, and that constant presence may benefit residents in a number of positive ways.

Researchers studied an Alzheimer's special care unit and wanted to see if having a resident dog (versus a dog just visiting for an hour or a day) would have an impact on the behavior of the residents. The study showed that the residents had significantly fewer behavioral problems while the facility had a regular canine presence.

Interestingly, the presence of a pet also increased the Alzheimer patients' nutritional intake, which meant that the patients required less nutritional supplements and were able to receive more adequate nutrition independently.

The effects of a pet are highly beneficial in an assisted living or other long-term care facility, but they can also have a wonderful impact on senior citizens living on their own. Many programs offer "Seniors for Seniors" programs that match senior citizens with a senior pet at a reduced cost. As long as there is a responsible friend or family member able to ensure the pet is being properly cared for, a pet can provide a senior citizen with the companionship and independence they need to live a happy and healthy life.

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