Many family caregivers that worry about their aging mom or dad growing lonely in their old age wonder about helping them adopt a pet. Studies show that dogs and cats can provide a lot of benefits to seniors, but family caregivers may still be unsure. Before dismissing the idea completely, family caregivers should look at the facts surrounding pet adoptions and seniors. Once they learn about the benefits, they may form a different opinion.
Here are some frequently asked questions about elderly adults and adopting a dog or cat:
Q: Are there really benefits for seniors who have a dog or cat?
A: There are numerous studies that reflect the benefits of being a pet owner. One study shows that having a dog can lead to better health and a longer life. Other research highlights the physical and mental health benefits. There’s been enough scientific research on the subject that it’s well understood that adopting a dog or cat is a beneficial thing to do.
Q: What physical benefits are there in seniors adopting a dog or cat?
A: Seniors with injuries or illnesses that limit their physical ability can be more active with a dog or cat. By the time they provide food and water daily and groom the dog, they’ve already engaged in more activity than usual. Add in play time, walks and cleanup duties and the aging adult is physically engaged with their pet throughout the day. Grooming and petting dogs and cats can also be incorporated into physical and occupational therapy exercises.
Q: Does pet ownership really reduce stress?
A: Research shows that petting and cuddling dogs and cats actually lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. The action is soothing and releases feel-good hormones that flood the body, reducing tension, pain and depression. Seniors that frequently pet their animals are certainly benefitting from the physical affection and unconditional love the animals provide them.
Q: Is a pet necessary if an elderly relative is getting in-home care from an elder care provider?
A: Many family caregivers may think that an elder care provider is enough company for an aging adult. However, pets provide many benefits that another human cannot. There are good reasons why dogs and cats are so popular, from entertainment and fun to unconditional love and a renewed sense of purpose for their care. Seniors who depend on family caregivers and elder care providers for daily tasks and companionship can reap many different benefits of adopting a dog or cat.
Q: What if an elderly relative can’t take care of a pet completely?
A: Family caregivers will need to evaluate how much their aging loved one can do on their own. If there’s an aspect that can’t be done, then family caregivers and elder care providers should step in and take care of it. The benefits of pet ownership for seniors is too great to let one or two small details stand in the way.