Alzheimer’s patients who are exposed to pets such as dogs display more positive behavior, according to a study carried out on an Alzheimer’s special care unit. Additional studies show that pets can provide companionship, reduce isolation, and ease anxiety. Modern
technology has now embraced the benefits that pets offer Alzheimer’s patients. These studies have resulted in therapy pets increasingly utilized by individuals with cognitive disorders.
But exactly how do real and replica pets help Alzheimer’s patients? Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford states that regular physical activity can slow down dementia symptoms in those who already have the disease, and can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in those who are at risk of developing it. Despite this, 28% of over 50’s never exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). This is concerning as this group is one of the most at risk of dementia. Thankfully, when a pet is brought into the mix, individuals with Alzheimer’s and those who are at risk of developing it are more likely to:
- Head outdoors
- Enjoy long walks with their companion
- Get up and play with their pet
- Explore new locations on foot
38% of people living with dementia say that they feel lonely, and a further 12% say that they’re not sure whether what they feel qualifies as loneliness, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Loneliness in Alzheimer’s patients typically occurs due to:
- A lack of confidence in their abilities
- Fear that they will become confused
- Losing contact with family and friends
- Being secretive about their health
As pets are always there, will always listen, and don’t judge, they make the perfect companion for individuals feeling these emotions. What’s more, having the responsibility of a pet provides people with a sense of purpose and makes them feel needed. Even if the pet is a lifelike replica rather than a real animal, these emotions are encouraged.
Increases feel-good hormones
Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in a person’s mood, appetite, sleep, and alertness, in addition to multiple other things. Recent studies have found a link between low serotonin levels and the development of Alzheimer’s. As such, actions should be taken to boost the chemicals interacting with the brain in Alzheimer’s patients to prevent depressive symptoms and poor health taking over. Pet therapy is ideal for these individuals as the University of Missouri-Columbia found that stroking a dog for just a few minutes releases multiple “happiness hormones,” including serotonin.
Control & manage symptoms better
Naturally, not every individual with Alzheimer’s will want a pet. There are also factors to consider, such as meeting the pet’s exercise requirements and remembering to feed and groom it regularly. This is where pet therapy comes into its own as giving an individual with
Alzheimer’s a lifelike pet which breathes, sleeps, and feels like a real animal can alleviate a whole host of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 study concluded that robotic pets can help control anxiety and depression symptoms just as well as medical drugs.
Additionally, pet therapy proved to be successful at symptom control in patients.
There’s no denying that Alzheimer’s can be a difficult disease to manage. But, thankfully, pets, including ones that utilize the latest technology, can provide a significant amount of love and affection that people with Alzheimer’s need. What’s more, these individuals will benefit from having a companion by their side.