It may not be the first thing you think of, but taking your dog or another pet when visiting a loved one with dementia can be a big help in brightening their day. Pets play a key part in enriching lives on an emotional level, by helping reduce stress levels and aid in mental stimulation.
It’s the unconditional love a pet can introduce that no human can compete with which can help evoke a positive response.
The benefits of having a pet around someone living with dementia range from promoting companionship, and reducing anxiety and agitation, to helping to improve interactions and socialisation with others.
The power of touch is important to individuals living with dementia, and dogs and cats in particular help provide sensory stimulation by just being around to stroke or for comfort.
We often invite the local cat rescue into our nursing homes to allow residents to spend time with four-legged felines. This helps trigger pleasant memories and enables the residents to spend some time ‘in the moment’ with the cats.
While there are many benefits to having pets around, it’s also important that before any pets are introduced to anyone living with dementia, the environment is assessed to avoid problems or a negative response.