Dog therapy is finally becoming more common in the nursing home industry. Dogs are great for residents to play, pet, and talk to during the pandemic. All nursing homes should start a program of dog therapy. Other animals can also work such as cats, birds, and reptiles. But dogs are best in my humble opinion.
This past year, many residents suffered from isolation and loneliness. The coronavirus has increased anxiety and depression among residents and caregivers. As nursing home attorneys, we are well aware that this isolation is dangerous. Dangerous to their physical and mental health. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. Dog therapy. Allowing dogs to interact with residents help prevent anxiety and depression. Dogs alleviate isolation and loneliness.
The dogs have to be trained obviously. Trainers make sure dogs do not hurt the residents. They need to follow basic commands. The dogs cannot be spooked by wheelchairs, elevators, mechanical lifts, and medication carts. The interaction provides an opportunity to give and receive safe affectionate physical contact. The residents love it. The dogs love it. Win-win.
Additionally, it is a benefit to caregivers. They can bring their dogs to work. The dogs can occupy residents when the facility is short-staffed. A chronic problem in the industry. The only concern is residents with allergies, and potential dog scratches. Both concerns can be addressed in a safe and effective manner.
Lately, the residents are thankfully able to “visit” family and friends via video chats and window visits. Unfortunately, it is not enough. Residents need more affection, physical contact, and emotional support. We hope dog therapy become common practice. It is a great idea and worth continuing even after the pandemic.