Making Connections with our Animal Friends


Anyone who has held a purring cat on their lap or has been greeted at the door at the end of a long day by the adoring look of a dog knows firsthand the power of animal therapy. Even pictures of cute baby animals on the internet have been shown to play a role in raising the spirits, as demonstrated in studies that find increased happiness and levels of productivity in office workers who view the pictures on social media. Here at SeniorCare Homes, we have seen for ourselves the power of animal-assisted therapy with our Memory Home residents, but when it comes to explaining why it works, we think that the English novelist George Eliot may have summed it up best by saying “Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” And that last part may be the best of all because in spite of, or perhaps despite our failings and missteps, our animal friends love us unconditionally.

Animal Therapy

Many believe it is this unwavering level of trust, unequivocal love, and attention that often allows animals to break through a barrier that humans, for whatever reason, are unable to reach. Maybe it is the non-verbal connection made through caring for an animal and having it depend on you completely. Or it could be that the action of providing the care creates a bank of memories that become immediate connections to comfort and enjoyment associated with the animal. Perhaps because that feeling and connection is so hard to define in words or through scientific experiment, animal therapy was not recognized as a beneficial medical-based therapy until as late as the 1980s, despite being in use since the 1860s. Today there is no limit to which animals can be included in therapeutic interactions. Common examples can include horses, dogs, cats, or dolphins but any animal who is vaccinated, well-trained, and exhibits a calm manner can be considered a therapy animal.

Residents at the SeniorCare Home Memory Homes receive visits from 4-legged friends through the Pets for Life program. The visits from the Pets for Life dogs are always a roaring success and encourage smiles from our Memory Home residents and also provide the opportunity for friendly interaction between the animal and the residents as well as being an easy topic of conversation between the residents and their caregivers as well as others who are present at the time.

Besides being a topic of conversation, animal visits also provide a comfortable non-verbal option of socialization for the residents. Studies of animal therapy with individuals suffering from dementia show reductions in apathy, restlessness, and irritability as well as increased appetite following a visit from an animal friend, according to the Alzheimer’s Project. Individuals who experience sundowning can also greatly benefit from the interactive behaviors and calming distraction provided through animal-assisted therapy.

SeniorCare Homes in Overland Park and Leawood, Kansas, offer the most comfortable and stable assisted living environment to seniors with dementia, memory loss, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Phone (913) 236-0036 to learn more about neighborhood living for the memory impaired.