Many people had dogs when they were growing up. They usually have fond memories of their furry friends. For dementia patients, touching and cuddling with a puppy can trigger those positive memories and lift spirits, mood, and overall well-being.
North Shore Animal League America conducts a program called Shelter Pet Outreach Team (SPOT). They bring puppies to seniors in long term care facilities. This ABC News article shows the power that simply touching and petting puppies can have on dementia patients. Shari Leventhal, director of a facility that benefited from SPOT, shares her perception of the program. She says most residents are not speaking, not social, and have mood swings. But putting a puppy in their lap changes them completely. It sparks memories. Furthermore, it gets them talking about happy memories of their pets from earlier years.
The disposition of those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s totally changes when recalling fond memories. One resident who benefited from the program began telling stories while hugging and kissing the puppy. A lot of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s are agitated and have behavioral issues that are hard to address effectively. That’s why animal and other alternative therapies have been so widely accepted. They are used as a powerful form of therapy.
Getting dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to connect, relax, and even laugh can be a challenge. Puppy therapy not only benefits the patient, but the caregivers as well. They will have connection and fun with their patients. Seeing these seniors light up brings joy to all involved.