Getting a Pet Can Improve Aging in place

In partnership with aginginplace.org, we would like to publish this great article today. You can find the original post on http://www.aginginplace.org/seniors-and-pets/

Are you wondering how you are going to care for your pet as you age in place? Are you wondering if you should adopt a pet as you age in place? This guide will help you decide on the best choice for you. Studies have shown that owning a pet can be physically and mentally beneficial for people of all ages. In the case of senior citizens, “just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke” (Byrne, 2015).

If you are mostly immobile, a cat may be the best option because you don’t have to walk them. A small dog that uses pee pads or a caged animal may also be a good option. Senior dogs and cats are better for the elderly because they are more calm, quiet, and less maintenance. Be sure to have the pet checked out by a veterinarian. A pre-existing illness or disease could drain your bank account or make you sick. For those seniors who want a dog, there are many reasons to be wary of jumping into pet adoption too quickly. The lack of mobility and inability to drive to and from the vet, groomer, or pet store worries them. The initial costs are usually high. They also worry that if and when there comes a point when they can no longer care for the dog, that the dog might be taken to a shelter and eventually euthanized. Many seniors feel like their worsening health condition is a burden, and a pet might possibly add to that.

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Top 6 Reasons Seniors Should Adopt a Pet

There are numerous reasons for adopting a pet. From companionship to security, pets can provide seniors a better quality of life and improve aging in place. Finding the right pet for you or your family member is easy, and the benefits can be far-reaching

Matching Older Dogs with the Elderly

Pets for Seniors in Illinois created an adoption program that matches senior dogs and senior cats with senior citizens. They worked out solutions to the issues that seniors have with pet adoption, and the program is very successful. The program pays for most of the adoption fee, chooses calm and housebroken older dogs, and provides support every step of the way. If the animal is not a good fit, the organization will take back the pet and refund any fees. Other humane shelters around the nation are trying to replicate this model.

Pet Therapy for Seniors

Those who work caring for the elderly say that pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming the pet, and offer a way to feel needed and connect with the world. Pet therapy can also help with Alzheimer’s Sundowners Syndrome. Nighttime can be very confusing and disorienting for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. This is when some Alzheimer’s patients try to run away or leave their home. A pet can prevent this issue by keeping those with Alzheimer’s connected and occupied.

“Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language; some may even connect with memories of their own treasured pets”

“Animals’ non-verbal communication and profound acceptance can be soothing for those with difficulty using language; some may even connect with memories of their own treasured pets” (Byrne, 2015). Pet therapy has shown to improve appetite, social interaction, brain stimulation, and tactile activity. The unconditional love of a dog brings healing and meaning to a sometimes lonely stage in life. Ask your doctor, physical therapist, or social worker about any pet therapy programs in your community. Just because you give away a pet or choose not to take one into your home, it doesn’t mean that you can’t visit with other family pets or receive pet therapy. There are pet therapy home visit services all over the country. Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Therapy Dogs International are volunteer-run organizations with outposts all over the world. A local volunteer will come to your home and bring a trained service dog that is very well-behaved. The dog can play, cuddle, and perform commands during a half-hour or one-hour session.

Service Dogs for Seniors

For seniors with disabilities, a service dog might be the best option. “The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2011 defines service dogs as those trained to do work directly related to a person’s disability.  Emotional support animals and dogs used as crime deterrents are excluded from this definition.  A service dog is expected to accompany a person with a disability at all times” (Wang, 2013). Service dogs go through extensive training to remain calm and help their owner with mobility issues.

Service dog skills include: opening doors with a strap, pushing doors closed, helping their handler dress and undress, helping those in wheelchairs sit up straight & place feet and arms on footrests and armrests, preventing falls, and retrieving wheelchairs and walkers. It’s amazing the tasks these dogs can do! In an emergency situation, service dogs are trained to perform life-saving tasks, like retrieving medication, calling 911, opening the door for EMT and first responders, running to get help or barking for help after identifying an emergency and laying down on their handler’s chest to help them a cough or breath better. For hearing impaired owners, service dogs are trained in alerting their handlers to the presence of other people or particular sounds, retrieving dropped objects, carrying messages, and warning that an unseen vehicle is approaching. For visually impaired owners, service dogs are trained in avoiding obstacles like moving vehicles, signaling a change in elevation, locating objects on command, and retrieving dropped objects.

Find the right service dog for you. Pets often increase the amount of exercise pet owners get versus non-pet owners. More exercise isn’t always a good thing for older people with injuries and susceptibility to falls. There are also some nonprofits in existence that will help elderly folks care for their pets when walking their dog multiple times a day or cleaning out the litter box is too burdensome. Look to see if there is one in your area.

If you want to learn more about 

  • The cost of Pet Ownership
  • The Risks and
  • How to Care for Your Pet While Aging in Place

Please visit http://www.aginginplace.org/seniors-and-pets/ and let us know what you think about this article. Thank you. 

 

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