In the article “Our Pets, Our Health,” published by the Pet Information Bureau in Washington, D.C., editors explained the mental health benefits that can come from having a cat or dog in the home. And although there is some work associated with keeping a pet, there can be even greater rewards for it.
“Many of us occasionally feel alienated from others and some of us, such as the elderly…feel this loneliness even more acutely,” the article explains. “Pets can help bridge this isolation by serving as a social catalyst between young and old.”
As more and more aging individuals choose to live alone – perhaps opting for an in-home caregiver instead of moving into a nursing home – the possibility for feelings of loneliness increases. Having an animal to care for and interact with can reduce those feelings and can provide opportunities for exercise and socialization.
“Taking care of a pet can also serve as an alarm clock for elderly people – reminding him to take care of himself, too,” the editors said. “In fact, animal companionship can dramatically improve the quality of life and may even have a positive impact on longevity.”
When asked whether a dog or a cat makes for the better animal companion for the elderly in terms of commitment, the answer is often a cat due to a dog’s need to go on walks. And some say that the therapeutic benefits to something as simple as petting a cat can include lower blood pressure and reduced risk for heart attacks.
Before making the decision to bring a pet into your aging loved one’s home environment, it’s best to talk about the responsibility it entails. And if that responsibility seems to be too great, call around to some of the local nursing homes. Often they will have resident pets that live on-site. And if they don’t, many nursing homes will set aside a special day to bring in pets for the patients to play with. And we here at Freedom Home Care assume they would be quite happy to have an animal lover as a visitor from time to time.