Man’s best friend is more than a cliché.
How many of us have pets that are part of the family?
Seniors have a lot of love for pets whether they are their own or animals belonging to others.
Research proves that interaction with animals can improve the health and well being of seniors.
Pets don’t judge but provide physical contact and stimulation to any person but especially a lonesome elder. Elders want to love, protect and nurture the soft animals who snuggle up for attention. They have an innate need to care for others and be needed as well.
Animals can fulfill that need for seniors. Animals of any kind can act as a substitute for the nurturing desire of an elder for someone they may have loved and lost in their lifetime.
Owning a pet can reduce blood pressure and lipid levels, and increase activity and socialization in its owner.
Many worry about a small animal causing falls which can happen when an older person isn’t cautious. However, the benefits are numerous.
Alzheimer’s patients are often calmed by pets when the pets are regular visitors. They can have reduced confusion, anxiety and agitation as well as increased communication in the presence of pets.
Many Alzheimer’s patients can get isolated in their disease but pets often lead to conversation and reconnection to their world. Pets don’t care if the wrong word is said or you forget a thought, they love the attention no matter what.
The best pets are those that allow petting and loving without getting aggressive. Animals that are not loud or overly active that won’t threaten or scare elders or increase their anxiety are good choices. Be sure that the older person was not fearful of certain animals before you bring them into their environment.
If they were afraid of dogs all their life, they are still going to be fearful and should be avoided.
Nursing homes have had pet therapy programs for many years and see how the residents brighten up when the pets arrive. The animals usually visit routinely and include pets such as rabbits, dogs, birds, goats and other farm animals. Some nursing homes have pets such as cats, dogs and birds which live full time in a facility and are cared for by the seniors.
Whether they have been in the home for years, newly adopted, family visitors or part of pet therapy in living facilities, all types of animals can improve the quality of life for older adults.