It is well known that the benefits of having a pet are considerable. There are a host of studies that demonstrate that pets help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and increase their owners’ levels of physical activity and social interaction. A household with a pet enjoys all of these benefits and more, as overall mental health is improved, and the unconditional love and loyalty of a pet is received. Elderly people often face loneliness and isolation. Family members are often unable to visit frequently, and the elderly may suffer with health related concerns that make it difficult for them to leave their homes and participate in lifestyle activities. The loving companionship of a pet can be a welcome distraction from the worries and concerns of growing old, and the changes that come with it.
When helping choose a pet for your ageing loved one, there are some important factors to consider.
- Has the person had a pet before? If not, give careful consideration to the most suitable pet for your loved one. Change can be difficult for the elderly, so it may be that a bird, fish or cat might be a better fit than a dog. Dogs require a lot more effort and commitment than many other pets, but for the willing and able they make a steadfast companion.
- Are there financial constraints? With a pet comes the extra costs associated with purchasing food, grooming, bedding, toys and medical care, so budget is a very important consideration.
- How old is the pet? Puppies and kittens are full of energy and require extensive training which can be a challenge for the most active person, let alone someone with potential physical barriers. Animal shelters are filled with senior animals in need of a new home. An older rescue pet is likely to be desexed, trained and far less energetic than a young pet. They will also have a shorter life span thus making them less of a long term commitment.
- What temperament is ideal for an older person? Cats are usually much more independent than dogs and small dogs whilst perfect lap companions, can be highly energetic. Consider your loved one’s home environment, personality, energy and fitness levels when helping them choose the perfect pet.
Whilst it is not possible to facilitate pets living permanently at any of our Homestyle Aged Care facilities, we do however have pet therapy programs in place to support the emotional wellbeing of our residents, as well as to foster a sense of responsibility and care. Some of our Lifestyle Coordinators bring their own pets in for the residents to enjoy some much appreciated love and companionship from a furry friend, as one of our previous stories shares here.
If you would like to visit one of our Melbourne or Geelong Aged Care homes, call us on 9559 0400 or contact us here.