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Pet Therapy in a Geriatric Setting 

Sue Wyeth, RGON, BA, Nursing Supervisor, Palmerston North Hospital 

Reference:  Wyeth, S. (1987). Pet Therapy in a Geriatric Setting Nursing Praxis in New Zealand 2(2) 24-29

The number of pet owners in the community indicates that people obviously derive some sense of satisfaction from pets.  Levinson (1969) maintains that this satisfaction is psychological rather than practical.  Recently, the beneficial effects that pets have on their owner’s health have been investigated.  Friedman (1978) found that owning a pet was associated with a lowered mortality rate of 23 percent post-hospitalisation for heart disease.  As well as having beneficial effects post-hospitalisation, pets have been demonstrated to have positive effects on patients in hospital, especially with institutionalised people.  Corson et al. (1977) introduced live-in dogs into a nursing home for behaviourally disturbed patients and reported that the pets helped transform “dependent, infantilized, self-neglecting behaviour into responsible, more self-reliant modes of interaction”.  Brickel (1979) introduced cats into a geriatric nursing home and noticed improvements in patients’ responsiveness to the environment and in their reality orientation.  Salmon and Salmon (1982) also reported significant improvements in geriatric patients, with the introduction of a live-in dog, especially in life satisfaction, social interaction and mood.
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