In Nursing homes therapy dogs have been found to be very helpful for patients with mild to severe dementia. Structured interactions with dogs can improve social behaviours in elderly dementia patients. Patients who participate in dog-assisted therapy sessions show greater attentiveness and better verbal communication function.
The patients also displayed decreased symptoms of sundown syndrome, which is a distressing condition associated with dementia, where patients suffer from increased confusion, restlessness, kicking, hitting and wandering. Patients are usually affected by this in the early evening. Dogs that are present during this time help to relax and distract patients.
Aside from the specific benefits for dementia, therapy dogs in a nursery home are of benefit for all elderly people. They provide opportunities for physical contact and stimulating the sense of touch. They encourage physical movement and communication. They provide more capable patience with a purpose, if they are allowed to help care for the dog and take it for walks. Teaching a dog new tricks can be a lot of fun and provide a sense of achievement. A dog in a nursing home can be a trusted companion for elderly people who find it difficult to build relationships with other people.