Many seniors have owned pets for a significant portion of their life. Treasured family pets form crucial memories and provide a sense of companionship and something to be responsible for. However, as seniors age, pets may be a responsibility that they feel they cannot take on. Sometimes they simply do not have the energy or physical ability to take care of their pets. However, many elders continue to benefit from having pets around, and there are ways for family caregivers to reduce the burden of caring for pets.
According to News in Health, interacting with pets can reduce blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, increase a sense of well-being and boost mood. An animal gives seniors something to focus on and talk about and adds a pleasant change in routine.
Pet therapy can include walking therapy animals, interacting with trained therapy animals and caring for animals. The benefits of pet care for the elderly include improvements in cognition, an increased desire to speak about past pets, improved morale, reduced anxiety, increased social interaction and improved self-esteem. Therapy pets are specially trained to interact with seniors and can give the pet interaction seniors like without the commitment of a full-time pet.
Sense of purpose
Some foster groups have piloted programs that pair willing senior fosters with young kittens who need to be bottle-fed every two hours. According to Animal Channel, this program even improved memory loss in affected patients and give elders a sense of purpose while giving back to the community and providing a service that is difficult to find volunteers for. Fostering animals is a short-term commitment with long-term results.
What’s required for therapy pets?
Therapy pets used in elder care are obedience trained so they will not act out and startle seniors or be potentially injurious. Pets must be socialized and calm and able to understand how to interact with mobility-impaired patients.
The mental and emotional benefits of pet interaction for the elderly are immense. Having therapy pets as part of their wellness routine also removes the need to be responsible for a pet physically and financially. If you are interested in finding a pet therapy program for the elder in your life, discuss it with them and ask different rescue groups or pet stores if they have recommendations on therapy pets who could interact well with seniors.
How can I help care for pets?
If your senior still has a pet full time, then volunteering to help take the pet to regular vet appointments can help make it easier to care for. Additionally, high-energy pets may not get the workouts they need from elders. Taking energetic dogs for long walks makes the pet more agreeable and may reduce behavior issues as a result of being underworked.
Being older doesn’t mean elders have to give up the things that make independent living so satisfying. Regular interaction with animals can be a huge quality of life improvement, and elder care can be supplemented with regular interaction with either family pets or therapy animals.
If you or an aging loved one is considering elderly care in Leesburg, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.