Alzheimer’s Agitation and Pet Therapy

Posted at Dec 30, 2013 | 586 Comments

For caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s disease, agitation is often one of the most challenging behaviors to manage. Because the cause of it remains unclear, finding ways to help minimize it is difficult. There are a wide variety of alternative therapies caregivers can try that have proven beneficial for older adults with dementia. These therapies range from art and music to massage. Pet therapy, also called Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), is an increasingly popular and effective method of calming agitation in people with Alzheimer’s.

Therapy dogs and Alzheimer's agitation

Just the presence of an animal can serve as an ice breaker in a senior’s home or at an assisted living community. From the time they arrive until the time they leave, a pet therapy animal can help to engage seniors. They also promote socialization with even the most withdrawn seniors. Most people have had a pet in their lives at one time or another and know they offer unconditional love. And, as an added benefit, the simple act of petting a dog has been proven to reduce blood pressure.

For caregivers of a senior loved one living at home with Alzheimer’s, having a four-legged friend pay them a visit often motivates them to get up and get moving for the day.  A loved one who may be unwilling to leave the house on a typical day may go willingly if they can take the dog for a walk.

If someone with Alzheimer’s disease has impaired communication skills, a dog can be a friend who requires no verbal abilities. The dog can respond to a loving pat or hug with a few wags of his tail. That non-verbal communication helps a person with Alzheimer’s feel like they have someone who understands.  The interaction helps to lower their level of agitation allowing human and animal to further bond.

If you would like to learn more about Animal Assisted Therapy or find a pet to visit with your loved one at home or in a senior living center, Pet Partners is a great place to begin your research. They are a non-profit that helps with therapy animals, service dogs and more.


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