Pets can provide many benefits to elders
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By Julie Ann Anderson  January 10, 2014 12:00 am

Many who are taking care of elderly parents at home may find that a pet may have positive benefits for the senior members of the household. If your elderly parents enjoy animals, you may want to pay a visit to the local animal shelter.

Pets play a special role

If a person is an animal lover, he or she is already inclined to respond positively to a cat, dog or other animal. 

Even some seniors who have not previously shown an interest in pets may find themselves pleasantly surprised at the bond they find with a new animal friend.

Many caregivers already have long, full days and may be reluctant to add another component into their routine. After all, dogs must be walked, cats must be fed, and bird cages must be cleaned.

 Reasons to consider pet for a senior loved one:

 • Studies indicate that those who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure and less likelihood of depression when compared to those without pets.

• Seniors over 65 who also own pets on average make almost one-third fewer visits to the doctor than do seniors who do not have pets in their lives.

• Pet interaction can be both physically beneficial and emotionally restorative. Playing with or walking a pet provides physical exercise. Also, serotonin and dopamine levels tend to rise after positive pet play, and this can make a person feel more at ease.

• Having a pet can help spark social interaction. If your senior loved one is able to participate in walking the dog daily, he or she will find that people are more likely to come over and interact with him or her. Many people like to find out about both the dog that is being walked and the person doing the walking. Similarly, a house cat or bird can make for a good topic of conversation with visitors or with friends communicating by phone.

• Pets are good sounding boards. Those taking care of elderly parents at home may encounter periods in which a parent is non-communicative about issues troubling him or her. Many people find it easier to talk over such problems with their pets; they may not find a solution to the problem, but they often feel better after talking about the problem and getting it out of their systems.

 

Finding a good pet for a senior loved one can make a big difference in his or her life. It's also very likely that a pet may make a positive difference in your own life; many caregivers find that they grow very fond of a loved one's pet and reap some of the same benefits from the pet as their loved one does.

 

 Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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