Just Try Not to Smile

You’ve likely experienced a moment of joy that comes when man’s best friend suddenly visits you. Whether a dog belongs to a friend or is a joyful pooch with a stranger holding its leash, there seems to be a kind of magic that comes with interacting with a well-behaved dog. Well, oddly enough, it’s not magic—it’s science. In this piece, we’re going to look at the why and how of using therapy dogs to increase hospice patient happiness and health.

Dogs Remove Someone From Their Environment

For many hospice patients, their lives have not been optimal for many months or possibly even many years. They’ve likely undergone many procedures or therapies and spent their fair share of time in a treatment center. While healthcare providers do their best to make patient stays as comfortable as possible, there are few ways to avoid the discomforts of actively receiving treatment for what is likely a failing body. For this reason, a visit from a therapy dog is one of the more welcomed escapes hospice patients can experience. Because one doesn’t ordinarily associate a snuggly furry friend with receiving treatment, the simple presence of a therapy dog allows a hospice patient a reprieve from their anxieties and discomforts. 

Memories of the Past

Reminiscing and sharing positive memories are activities frequently encouraged to families of hospice patients. While going through photo albums or home movies are immensely beneficial ways to increase patient happiness, interacting with a therapy dog can have an astounding ability to help hospice patients recall moments with pets they’ve enjoyed. Memories of beloved pets can be some of the most joyful memories we can remember, and there are few other memory joggers quite like the wagging tail of canine companion. 

The Power of Touch

While a photo album can trigger immense joy and a favorite story can transport someone to the day the events occurred, physical contact has been clinically proven to put us at ease. In studies, patients interacting with therapy animals showed spikes in oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin—hormones associated with calmness, comfort, and happiness. Whether the connection is the embrace of a friend or the gentle petting of the floppy ears of a golden retriever, this contact with a companion is shown to lower one’s blood pressure and help reduce anxiety.

The Furry Pain Reliever

While most would equate a visit from a friendly therapy dog to increase happiness, these encounters have even been shown to reduce sensations of physical pain. While results may vary, positive encounters with therapy dogs and hospice patients have resulted in pain reductions, lowered blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular conditions. Best of all, these furry pain relievers have no adverse side effects aside from light shedding and the occasional slobber. 

The Benefits of Joyful Expectation

One of the greatest despairs facing hospice patients is the idea of not having many joys in which to look forward. For this reason, visits from therapy dogs provide hospice patients with hopeful expectations even when they’re not around. When a hospice patient is informed that a therapy dog is coming to see them, this news by itself can fill them with joyful anticipation. 

Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, OK

For those exploring the highest quality hospice and palliative care options in the Greater Tulsa, OK area for themselves or a loved one, you're invited to meet the friendly hospice care professionals from Cura HPC.

Learn more about Cura HPC today.