Though little research has been done at this time with the relationship between the elderly and animals, there is evidence that Trained animals have a positive effect on seniors in clinical settings. Animal assisted therapies are offered in hospitals and nursing facilities across the country with beneficial outcomes. These studies are still in their infancy, so there not much solid scientific evidence confirming this type of therapy at this time. However, the clinicians who watch patients interact with animals readily see an improvement in their disposition.
According to Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, explains when dogs sit by the patient’s bedside, it helps to bring some normalcy to a very difficult situation. The patient does not to talk to anyone; he has his dog next to him to pet for companionship. She has observed how animal assisted therapy helps patients to cope more effectively with pain. She thinks they are in the infancy stages regarding the human-animal bond and its potential health benefits.
According to research at University of California - Veterinary Medicine, Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress when a pet is in the home. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia have a positive response to pets.
Since cats require less care than dogs, they may be more suitable for seniors. They can also provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication. Overall, when elderly bond with animals the outcomes are positive.
CONSIDERATION WHEN YOUR LOVED ONE WANTS A PET
Pets can affect mood and health. There are physical and mental health advantages that also accompany the pleasure of having a pet. Some of the following are the benefits of the bond between an animal and owner:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
- Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without pets.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer doctor visits than individuals without pets.
Some individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia have a positive reaction to pets because it can make their living environment less stressful.
Research at the University of California at Davis of Veterinary Medicine concluded that Alzheimer’s patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a pet in the home.
- Pets can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication. The playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained animal can help soothe an Alzheimer’s patient and decrease aggressive behavior.In many cases a patient’s problem behavior is a reaction to the stressed response of the primary caretaker. Pets can help ease the stress of caregivers. Cats or caged animals such as a canary may be more suitable than dogs, which generally require more care and can add to the responsibility of someone who’s already looking after an Alzheimer’s patient.
- Your loved one could have allergies to pets.
- The place your parent is living prohibits pet ownership.
- Your loved one is not able to care for his pet and no one is available to help out.
- Animals can be costly – food, licenses, beddings, toys, vets, maintenance.
- Pets can be destructive. Pets can have accidents. Some cats are prone to shredding upholstery while dogs prefer to chew shoes. Training may help but if they do not receive enough exercise and stimulation, they will continue this behavior. Talk with a dog trainer for suggestions so that your loved one can keep the pet.
- An animal can inflict injury to your loved one. Check out the animal prior to giving the animal to your parent. Then spend some time with the pet with your parent to help them both get acquainted. If it is a puppy and needs to be trained, you may want to consider obedience training.