Serenity Point Hospice, LLC.

762 East Chestnut
Canton, IL 61520

CHAP Accredited
Serenity Point Hospice, LLC.

When Quality Care & Peace
Of Mind Matter Most

Phone: 309-435-7050
Fax: (844) 813-1772

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Patient Referral

Pet Therapy - Furever Friends

What Is Hospice Pet Therapy?

Pets have a longstanding history of providing faithful companionship and showing unconditional love for the humans in their lives. This companionship and love creates a powerful emotional bond between animal and human. The bonds that humans share with pets result in very positive effects: reduced anxiety and stress, increased feelings of relaxation, and an overall improved outlook on life. In seeking to provide patients with the best end-of-life care possible, many hospice organizations employ the use of animal companionship as a form of therapy. Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, in the hospice setting uses the natural bond between humans and animals to provide comfort, peace, and soothing companionship to terminally ill patients.

The History of Pet Therapy

The first use of animals in a therapeutic setting dates back to the 1800s. Florence Nightingale observed that children and adults in psychiatric wards, when given the companionship of small animals, experienced greatly reduced levels of anxiety and stress. Her findings inspired others to employ the use of animals in therapeutic settings as a means of providing comfort and relaxation to patients.

How Animals Interact with Hospice Patients during Visits

Visitation between patients and animals promotes activity, conversation, and emotional connection. Often, simply the presence of the animal is all that is required to promote the positive effects; however, patients, caregivers, and family can interact with the pet therapy animals as they would with most any pet:

  • Tossing a ball or toy for the animal to fetch
  • Quietly enjoying the presence of the animal in silence
  • Talking to, petting, hugging, holding, or cuddling with the animal
  • Enjoying playful animal tricks and commands such as sitting, rolling over, or shaking hands

Physical Benefits of Hospice Pet Therapy

The close companionship of animals provides a relaxing and understanding presence to those on the end-of-life journey. Enjoying the presence and interacting with animals yields a host of physical benefits for patients:

  • Helps reduce physical pain
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Promotes an improved heart rate and total cardiovascular health
  • Increased levels of overall comfort

Hospice pet therapy programs also have a significant impact on the overall range of motion and bodily strength of patients. Active movement can often be neglected, especially in older patients; however, pet therapy visits promote motion and activity as hospice patients play, cuddle, pet, and interact with their animal companion.

Social and Emotional Benefits of Hospice Pet Therapy

Animals also have a profound, measured impact on the social and emotional well-being of patients. The soothing presence and unconditional affection of an animal provides:

  • Reduced feelings of loneliness
  • Reduced feelings of depression
  • Lower levels of anxiety
  • Improved overall outlook on life and circumstances

These effects are particularly noticeable in patients with dementia. According to a 2013 study, dementia patients, over a 10-week period of pet therapy, experienced a slowing in the progression of dementia-related symptoms, including agitation, aggression, and depression. The presence of animals also elicited a higher response rate from patients, signaling that pet therapy may also help slow the degradation of verbal skills brought about by the disease.

Animal Species Used in Hospice Pet Therapy

Some patients may have allergic reactions to certain animal species; however, pet therapy allows for all patients, regardless of allergies or other restrictions, to enjoy the company and affection of compassionate animals. While dogs comprise the majority of the animals in pet therapy programs, there is a wide array of species employed in providing comfort and companionship to hospice patients.