Pets bring physical, mental, and emotional benefits to Skilled Nursing Facility residents

Throughout our lives’ our pets often are important aspects of our families, relationships, and a source of comfort in difficult times. From growing up as children, through building ones’ own family in adulthood, animals and pets are a great source of fulfillment for many people. As we age, those in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and assisted living may still also be able to enjoy those lifelong connections with pets through several different ways.

While nursing homes have regulations on animals visiting or living in a nursing home, there are still many ways residents can connect with animals they have grown to love over the years. This blog will explore the special ways animals can brighten nursing home residents’ life, allow them to connect with the positive force, and the healing power of our furry friends.

Community Events:
Community events and local animal habitats are great opportunities for SNF residents and staff to connect with animals such as horse, goats, sheep and more. While these animals might not be the ones many would consider home pets, it is still an exciting connection for residents. Sometimes, animal sanctuaries can travel to the SNF and bring the zoo to the residents!

Family Pets:
When a loved one enters a SNF for short-term rehabilitation or a longer respite stay, a beloved family pet might be left at home with a spouse or other family members. Being separated from furry companions can be traumatic on top of already facing health care challenges.

Family pets are welcome to visit with their loved one, but local regulations as well as SNF guidelines require all pets visiting (typically a family cat or dog), be up to date on all shots and vaccinations. Contact the SNF your loved one is going to for care for exact details.

A visiting pet may give the resident a boost in morale, encouragement to excel in rehabilitation so they may return home sooner if their clinical condition allows for a return to home.

Therapy Dogs:
In addition to visiting pets, many SNFs employ the use of therapy dogs. Sometimes these may be trained, licensed, and certified therapy dogs, but often they are pets who go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as hospitals, schools and of course, SNFs.

Pet therapy can be very simple and take many forms. It may include petting, helping groom and even play games such as play fetch with a therapy dog. There are many benefits for SNF residents interacting with pets, which includes increased self-esteem and increased mental and physical activity. Also, dogs can provide a distraction from the challenges SNF residents are facing during their recovery and rehabilitation.

Keep in mind that everyone is not an enthusiastic about animals and to be respectful for those who might be allergic or are simply not comfortable.

Pets can bring a lot of enjoyment to our lives, especially if you’re a lifelong caregiver and lover of dogs, cats, rabbits, or whichever pets they may have grown to love over their lifetimes. Providers want to keep those connections strong and allow residents the opportunity to connect with pets to help with the healing and rehabilitation process. Additionally, the employees at SNFs may benefit from having therapy pets in the center as they help reduce stress and make the center feel even more homelike.

Author: Brandon S. Totten
Digital Media Coordinator, Kissito Healthcare