Pets and Seniors
By CarePatrol of SC: Midlands, Upstate, Pee Dee
Pets are a longstanding tradition among Americans – dogs, cats, birds, even fish. Having a pet can make a person feel loved, and like there's always a friend nearby. Pets are loyal and not ever judgmental – they bring joy to their owners. There is nothing like the unconditional love and devotion that can be seen in the eyes of a dog as they look at their owner.
A pet can be very beneficial to a senior, especially one who lives apart from family. It is a comfort to know there is another being with you, even dependent on you. The bond that is developed between a solitary person and their pet is deep and long-lasting.
Seniors who need to move into Assisted Living can feel much anxiety over potentially losing their pet who is their friend, and sometimes even feels like family. Even when it has become a burden to care for the pet, there is still the worry of giving up a companion who depends on you. It can also be an issue for the family of the senior who is moving, since many times they cannot be with their senior family member and may feel guilt over leaving them alone.
Many times, when the health of a senior declines, so does their ability to care for a pet. If they are unable to move as easily or walk without aid, the pet does not get exercise. The loss of the ability to drive or lift can greatly hamper buying pet food and supplies, as well as regular veterinary appointments. Especially if the pet is a large dog, it can even be dangerous for the senior to continue to try to care for the animal or control it. Obviously, a smaller pet, such as a small dog or a cat or bird, will not pose as many difficulties, but a decline in the health of a senior is many times associated with a decline in the care and health of their pet.
However, the health benefits of having a pet only increase as a person ages. Pets are associated with more exercise, leading to better cardiovascular health. They also have been shown to decrease depression and lower blood pressure. It can give a senior something outside of themselves to focus on, and a schedule for an otherwise empty day, and something to be concerned about outside of themselves. In addition, caring for a pet can bring a person into a community of other pet owners and lovers, and social interaction is very helpful to anyone. It may take some strategizing to get the right pet for the person, but if managed well, a pet can be invaluable to an aging person.