Animals can help reduce loneliness, grief, fear and pain. St. Barley’s had a couple who lived there together for over ten years. After the wife died he started to regress and came out of his room less and less to intermingle. But I did notice that one of the few times he would come out and even have a faint smile on his face was when the animal visits took place.
Residents will, quite often, freely open up around animals because animals provide a safe avenue for communication. Animals do not judge us, do not talk back and are wonderful listeners and basically accept us for who we are.
Animals don’t care what kind of personal issues a person has, the animals live in the here and now. People will usually tell animals things they have never told any human being.
Taking care of an animal also takes a person’s mind off of their own problems, even if it is for a short while. A person caring for an animal must concentrate on caring for another living thing and attend to the animal’s immediate needs and, in turn, this can make a person feel needed, which raises self-esteem. This helps people focus their thoughts on something outside their own immediate problems and can give them a better perspective and help increase a person’s will to live.
Sometimes Administrators take a dim view of incorporating animals into the nursing home setting. Some fear other residents will have allergies or others will trip over animals and get hurt. They also fear residents will incur scratches or bites, but this is ridiculous because many elderly have animals in their private homes, some have several and for good reasons.
Animals help alleviate any loneliness the elderly may start to experience as they age. Animals make a place feel more like a home and much less like an institution and animals can help generate discussions whenever the elderly get together to chat.
Animal antics will usually always make residents laugh, or at least smile while watching them, this hold true for even the most cantankerous resident.
This doesn’t mean every family that tours a facility will like the idea of having animals living in the nursing home. That’s fine, and if it’s the case then maybe they are just too much into the idea of a facility as an institution or hospital.
But if every nursing home, or at least many more of them, adopted animals as part of the permanent setting, most families would just take for granted that the animals are an integral part of the nursing home setting. A nursing home that attracts animal lovers as staff is wonderful too because I tend to feel more at home with people who love animals. Those who love animals are more likely, in my experience, to also give loving care to people too. Where's the down side of that?
To help alleviate any burden placed on staff to care for animals, a facility could employ a high school or college student to come in each day to feed, water, empty litter boxes and maybe even transport an ailing animal to the local vet’s office. Maybe even volunteer groups would be able to just volunteer for this service as well.
But there are way more pros than cons to incorporating animals into a nursing home setting.