Pets Can be Great for Seniors if Chosen Carefully
A few years ago, not many people had heard the phrase “therapy dog,” but today animals are used in many different contexts for emotional support. Of course, we have always known that pets bring a lot of happiness, comfort, and fun into the home, but recently medical professionals have been quantifying the benefits of owning a pet. Those benefits are measurable, and they are worth considering for seniors. Be careful, though, to weigh all of the responsibilities as well as the benefits when choosing just the right pet.
Companionship and Stress Relief
For a senior who lives alone, a dog or a cat in the house adds an element of companionship that can only be matched by human interaction. Breeds that are protective of their owners also provide security, and animals that have been specially trained can even assist with certain tasks. Loneliness and inactivity, two major threats to seniors’ health, become less of a problem when there is a furry friend in the home. It is good for a senior to have the small responsibilities that come along with caring for a pet, as long as he or she is physically able to perform them. There is a satisfying sense of accomplishment that accompanies these tasks, as well as something to look forward to throughout the day.
Taking Care of the Pet
Before purchasing a pet for a senior loved one, family members need to carefully consider whether the pet will receive adequate care. Factor in the costs of spaying/neutering, preventive medical treatment, food, and other needs. If it is not reasonable to expect your senior loved one to feed, clean up after, walk, and otherwise care for the pet, then designate family members to do so on a regular basis. You can also consult with your current in-home care provider to find out what pet care tasks are included in their duties. A little coordination and cooperation between a senior’s care team might be all it takes to keep both the senior and her pet healthy and happy.
Choosing the Pet
Once you’ve decided to buy a pet, the fun part begins—choosing the perfect one! Dogs are extremely personable and attentive, but some breeds do require significant amounts of exercise. A large breed in a small apartment probably isn’t the best choice, either. Many people prefer cats for their lighter care needs and their ability to remain indoors at all times, reducing the risk of bringing fleas or other pests into the house. Other pets, such as fish, turtles, and birds carry special needs of their own but are constant sources of entertainment. Whichever pet you choose, prepare to watch a fun and special friendship develop between your elderly loved one and her new companion.
Photo by Orin Zebest
Originally posted 2014-09-18 10:30:50.