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Are Pets for the Elderly a Benefit or Disadvantage?

Florida First on July 5, 2017

Aging individuals may have many disagreements for wanting to leave the comforts of home to live in an assisted living facility. One of these disagreements may be leaving a beloved pet behind. Contrary to what many may believe, pets for the elderly contribute many positive benefits. If you are thinking about moving a loved one away from a pet or thinking about getting a pet for your aging loved one, it’s best to know the benefits and challenges first.

Benefits of Pets for the Elderly

Physical Health: Along with having to walk a dog or help a pet get the exercise they need, owning a pet can actually help lower blood pressure. This is thought to be due to their ability to help individuals feel calm.

>Mental Health: As we age, we need to increase mental stimulation to help our mental health stay in balance. Without challenging our brain to exercise, mental issues can arise like anxiety and depression. Owning a pet can produce this mental stimulation, and can actually help reduce the risk of developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Fighting Loneliness: It can be challenging living alone as we age. Often, elderly individuals have lost many loved ones including spouses and children throughout their lifetime. Although pets can never replace lost loved ones, they can help heal the hurt by being with us now. Additionally, pets love without measure and provide a friend on both good and bad days. Because depression and loneliness are such a challenge for aging individuals who choose to live at home, the company of a pet can be drastically beneficial.

Social Engagements: Although cats and other small animals don’t need walking or as much social engagement, having a dog can be a way to meet others. Dogs need exercise and enjoy social interaction with other dogs. Taking dogs for walks or to the dog park can be a great way for elderly individuals to meet others with similar interests. It’s important for aging individuals to keep a healthy social life to fight against loneliness and depression. It’s also even proventhat having friends can reduce health risks greatly, and so pets for the elderly do as well.

Choosing the Best Pets for the Elderly

If you are thinking about investing in the benefits of pets for the elderly, you will need to take a few precautions to ensure you and your family member has the best pet experience possible. A few precautions before choosing a pet for an elderly family member may include:

Pet Age: Young animals need more care and attention than adult animals. Puppies and kittens can also be very energetic, and it can be challenging to keep them out of trouble all hours of the day. This can be a burden to your aging loved one. Make sure that the cat, dog, or other pet decided upon is a proper age to have all needed veterinary care and is also already house broken.

Physical Ability: A dog is a pet that needs a lot of exercises. Every day, they are going to need to be outside and walk about. Dogs are great pets for seniors, but for those who can no longer walk or have difficulty walking, a cat may be a better companion. Many people do not know that cats can be just as (if not more) affectionate than dogs. Plus, they don’t need the daily walks or even potty training as they are usually litter trained at only a few weeks old.

Personality and Temperament: Obviously, you are going to want to choose a pet that gets along with your aging loved one. It’s a great idea to have the individual spend as much time with the animal as possible before deciding on adoption. Make sure that the animal has a calm temperament and is patient enough to live with an older human. For example, many people think that Jack Russells, because of their cheery personalities and small stature, are good for aging loved ones. But, Jack Russells are one of the smartest and energetic dog breeds known to this planet and require much mental stimulation through exercise. Otherwise, their pent-up energy and boredom can turn into bad habits. If you wish to get a dog, decide on one with both a personality and temperament that mirror your loved one.

If you or a loved one is an aging senior that does not wish to leave the home because of a pet, or would like a pet, you may benefit from an in-home caregiver. With a caregiver, aging people don’t have to leave their homes or their pets to live in assisted living environments. If you are interested in receiving a caregiver referral, please call Florida First Senior Homecare at 561-717-7224.