Pets Improve Health of Seniors

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.

Confusion Remains High About Health Care Reform

It has been awhile since the debate was in full swing and then the final vote of approval for health care reform.

Most people, especially seniors, are still struggling to understand what the Affordable Care Act means.

What changes in Medicare and Medicaid services will be coming their way?

What will the cost of service mean to the national budget and potentially their taxes when living on a fixed income?

Will they have to pick new doctors, pay more for prescriptions or leave their home sooner?

The National Council on Aging recently completed a poll among 636 Americans 65 years and older and found that most were confused about the changes and how they will be impacted. Only 22% of those polled knew that the new law would not cut their Medicare benefits while 42% thought their benefits would be cut and 37% had no idea about how they would be impacted.  49% erroneously believed that the new law would increase the federal deficit.  Most understand that the donut-hole loophole has been closed.

As a result, a campaign for educating seniors (and their loved ones) called Straight Talk for Seniors and Loved Ones has begun. The following are a few of the facts that they are highlighting to increase awareness:

  1. Medicare benefits will not be cut and some have been improved such as a yearly wellness checkup with a prevention plan, prescription drug donut-hole loophole closed, and help getting you back home after a hospitalization
  2. Reduce Medicare growth and improve solvency while reducing the deficit over the next 10 years; payments to doctors have not been reduced
  3. Increase long term care help in the home, CLASS program-national long term care insurance
  4. Improve care for elders through increased education of caregivers, quality measures for nursing homes, improved access to doctors, and protection against elder abuse
  5. Improve health insurance coverage for younger Americans similar to Medicare benefits

Get the facts.

According to the Council on Aging, there will be many improvements in benefits for elders as a result of health care reform that provide hope to millions.

We will be following the implementation and reporting on what we see to help you stay informed.