Pet Therapy: Why What's Good for the Residents is Also Good for the Staff
Every day, pet therapy offers tremendous benefits to residents of senior living communities nationwide. Countless articles, studies, and anecdotes point to the positive physical, mental, and emotional outcomes gained by those living in communities with successful pet therapy programs, whether therapy animals are brought in or reside in the home full-time.
Other than the people suffering from allergies, or those who have never been fond of animals, just about everyone in a senior living community welcomes and loves a visit from a furry friend…everyone, including the staff.
Pet therapy programs are easy to integrate, especially when the visits are coordinated by an organization coming into the home. Most of the "work" falls on the therapy organization or individual (therapy animals must be trained and certified), not the senior living community, yet the benefits to all are recognized immediately. Trust me, as a former activities director, I can tell you that visits from well-run pet therapy groups - or responsible individuals - are a dream.
In communities where pets wander the halls freely or have a designated living area, there isn't much burden on the staff either. Yes, someone has to ensure the pet is fed, bathed, walked, entertained, and vaccinated, but depending on the size of the facility and the number of staff, I'm guessing there is more than enough help for those tasks. In fact, people - staff and residents alike - are no doubt tripping over each other to take care of Rover.
And if the staff is happy, wouldn't it follow that the residents are happy?
Certainly a host of factors come into play when it comes to resident satisfaction/quality of life, but I truly believe that quality of care is directly related to employee satisfaction. Training is important, but all the training in the world won't do a bit of good for the employee who hates her job, feels less than appreciated, or isn't making a decent wage.
Working with seniors is an immensely rewarding job, but it's also exhausting. It's frustrating. It's depressing. Death, illness, and decline are all around. Dealing with people afflicted by Alzheimer's disease is very difficult, and dividing your time among the residents is a tricky balance to strike. Every day is an adventure, a quality of the job which some employees thrive on. Others burn out. Caring for people with varying levels of need and equally diverse personalities is hard work, even for those who love doing it.
Let me assure you that there are innumerable moments in the daily grind of working in senior living communities that are positively priceless. You build relationships that you will cherish for a lifetime. You meet people that you will never forget. You make memories that will bring a smile to your face whenever you think about them. If you truly care, you are making a difference when you go to work, an investment in lives that no paycheck can ever compete with.
Picture this: The nurse supervisor comes in to work after a trying night with her young children. She's already on edge when she walks through the door. She loves her job, loves the people she cares for each day, but she's tired and defeated. She plops down at her desk to review the report from the night before and feels a paw on her knee. She looks down into the adoring face of the community canine. He's happy to see her, he senses her sadness, and he wants to help. (And if you have pets, you know the indescribable feeling that the unconditional love of an animal floods into your soul.)
Yes, pet therapy in senior living communities is an absolute win - for EVERYONE