There’s no question that pet ownership in the United States has taken on a whole new vibe. All you have to do is look at pet-specific clothing and accessory lines, or the number of people bringing pets with them to run errands, to know pets have become official members of the American Family. However, when you’re going through the stress and trauma of finding home healthcare for a senior loved one, or helping them transition from their home to a senior community, their pet(s) may be the last thing on your mind.
How Much Is That Doggy in the Window? Priceless!
You may want to think twice before choosing a living arrangement that doesn’t include pets. Or, if your beloved senior doesn’t have a pet, this might be the time to adopt one for him/her. Scientific findings regarding the benefits of pet ownership on human mental and emotional well-being is astounding. Not only that, the positive emotional impact of connecting with pets translates into improved physical health.
Here are some amazing facts regarding the benefits of pet ownership for seniors. It’s like therapy everyday!
History matters. Did your parent or grandparent own a pet as a child? If so, pet ownership is probably even more important to them at a time in their life where they are being increasingly isolated from others and have lost the daily physical touch that is part of most people’s day to day lives during the “family years”. According to petpartners.org, “Among individuals aged 65 – 87 years, pet owners reported a past history of pet-keeping more frequently than did the non-pet owners. In a study of adults, 88% of the pet owners had owned pets as children…”
Pets decrease emotional outbursts in Alzheimer’s patients. One of the most unfortunate consequences of Alzheimer’s and dementia can be the angry and emotional outbursts that occur. These episodes are traumatizing for everyone involved. Lynette Hart, a professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home.”
It’s an excuse to get some exercise. You can’t begrudge your elderly relatives for not getting out more often. We all know that exercise is healthy, but it’s easy to get into a rut. Dogs, however, need their daily exercise everyday. Canadian researchers at the University of Victoria found that dog-owners spent twice as much time walking as those that didn’t own dogs and, more specifically, Johns Hopkins research says the elderly population is the most likely to walk their dog at least three times a week or more. Pets can be a great way to get seniors moving.
They may be the first to know there’s a health problem. There are amazing statistics coming out regarding normal dogs and their ability to sniff out health problems such as low blood sugar. More than 1/3 of diabetic patients with dogs have been alerted to their plummeting blood sugar by their dog’s unusual behaviors. This is important, especially for diabetics who are living alone. Dogs have even been shown to sniff out cancer in its early stages.
Pets can facilitate rehabilitation. Many rehabilitation centers are using professional service dogs to help their patients heal. These dogs encourage mobility, provide unfailing encouragement and love, and improve the mental outlook of patients, which facilitates the overall healing process.
These facts are proof that pets are more than just a cute furry body. They may even be life savers. Do what you can to facilitate pet ownership in your seniors’ lives.