Bunny Therapy Brings Relaxation to Seniors

May is National Pet Month, a celebration of the benefits that pets bring to people’s lives and vice versa. It is an ideal time to celebrate the health benefits of animals for seniors, which can include relaxation, socialization, companionship, and even lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol.

We hear a lot about assisted living facilities and nursing homes offering pet therapy with dogs and cats to help improve the health of seniors, including those who are chronically ill and have disabilities. In addition to dogs and cats, warm and fuzzy bunny therapy is also bringing some unique advantages to senior communities.

Recently, Spring Hills Senior Communities, which span from northern New Jersey to central Florida, incorporated bunny therapy into their facilities. It began when a local breeder and volunteer from Dayton, Ohio named Cassie Tuttle, who herself has Asperger’s Syndrome, brought several of her bunnies to one of the facilities in that area.  The staff found that as each pet was placed in the lap of a resident, the cuddling immediately produced positive responses, ranging from squeals of delight to calm relaxation. The bunnies also brought relaxation to the staff,who looked forward to Cassie’s visits and found relaxation in petting the bunnies themselves. In addition, taking the initiative to bring the rabbits to the Spring Hills seniors and her leading role as their handler has increased Cassie Tuttle’s personal confidence, as well.

The stroking of a docile animal can be beneficial in stress reduction and in promoting general feelings of well-being. It has also been shown that pets are good for Alzheimer’s patients. They, too, need to belong, love and be accepted. Pets give unconditional love. Alzheimer’s patients say the most incredible things in the presence of a pet.

However, even in communities that welcome personal pet ownership, many seniors do not feel confident caring for a dependent animal and yet miss the special relationship they once enjoyed with a family companion animal. Visiting pets such as bunnies, dogs, and cats, are therefore ideal for assisted living and nursing home facility residents who enjoy the therapeutic benefits, but can no longer keep up with the care and maintenance of the pet.

Please read our blog post, Pets in Assisted Living Communities Shown to Boost Seniors’ Health, for more details about the benefits of pets for seniors.

Do you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care? Whether you are looking for a facility that allows pets or not, if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), now is the time. Please call The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg to make an appointment for a introductory consultation. While you are here, you will have the opportunity to meet our delightfully cuddly therapy bunny and therapy cats, as well as our cute but not-so-cuddly African dwarf frogs. 

P.S. Don’t forget about your pet! Read our recent post about Pet Trusts and be sure to include them in your planning. In addition, be sure to sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to read “Critter Corner” each Friday, where our pets answer elder law and estate planning questions.

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.