Companionship and pets
Pets are a wonderful addition to a household at any stage of life but in older age they can be a source of enormous comfort and companionship. For elderly people, many of whom are housebound, pets offer a genuine lifeline. Interaction with animals can provide older people with:
Companionship and friendship
Owning a pet can have substantial physical and psychological benefits for an elderly person. For some older people, pets may be their only friend. Dogs, in particular, can provide an older person with companionship and love.
Improved mental well-being
Pets love being talked to, and typically respond with love and affection. Through this affection and unconditional love, many pets help relieve the sense of loneliness and depression that some elderly people experience.
Support during a bereavement
Animals are especially beneficial in helping an older person work through the loss of a spouse or loved one. They are a comforting presence at a time of loneliness and can even have a positive effect on symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness.
Animals can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and increase social interaction and physical activity. Seniors who keep pets are often found to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and lower levels of triglyceride.
Structure and purpose
Caring for a pet give a sense of purpose and provides structure to the day. Walking, grooming, feeding and playing with a pet can also give older people a feeling of being in a caring and nurturing role, rather than restricted to a ‘cared for’ role.
Increase attentiveness to own self-care needs
Feeling needed by something or someone is a great feeling, especially in old age. Pets need their owners, and this often leads them to take better care of themselves, which in turn boosts self-esteem and self-worth.
Pets can provide security in the sense of not feeling alone as well as an enhanced sense of physical security, which can reduce the person’s stress levels – knowing, for instance, that the dog will alert them to a stranger.
While owning a pet can improve an ageing person’s physical and emotional well-being, dogs do need to be walked regularly, and even cats need to be played with. The pros to pet-owning can in many cases far outweigh any cons, but when mobility issues mean that walking the dog becomes too challenging, we are there to help.
At Birchwood Care Services, we understand how important your pet is to you. Ask us how we can help look after them on home visits – whether it’s walking your dog or feeding the fish.
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