- Aging & Longevity
The importance of animals in the lives of the elderly
Pets and the elderly - do they really matter?
If there's anyone who knows about the importance of animal in the lives of the elderly it's me and my 95 year old Mom, Gertie. We currently have 6 dogs, 1 confused cat, and 1 even more confused bird.
Every single day, my Mom comes down the stairs and greets every dog by name. Now, not only is that quite the feat as the dogs are all crowding toward her as they know a meal ticket when they see it, but just remembering their names is mental stimulation for my elderly mother each day. Sure, she might mix up one or two of the littlest dogs but they don't mind and neither do I.
If you don't believe in the importance of animals in the lives of the elderly, read along and let me try to persuade you.
Letting the elderly help with the dogs
When one of my dogs (wee Rita) had emergency eye surgery, she was in an e-collar for 6 weeks. Mom was absolutely instrumental in helping with Rita's recovery by holding her every day. The two of them dozed off and on together. I never had to worry about where Rita was - she was always content in Mom's arms. What a huge help that was and I could see the joy in Mom's face every time I placed Rita in her arms. No one had to explain the importance of animals in the lives of the elderly to me.
Pets can relieve tension in the elderly
Studies have shown that just the act of petting a cat or a dog may decrease blood pressure - always a good thing no matter what your age. And, with our 6 dogs at the ready, there's always someone in line to be under Mom's aged hand.
My Mom also gets much joy from watching the dogs interact with each other. We're blessed to have a very balanced pack (I'm a strong alpha to all and, boy, do they know it) so there's very rarely a squabble in the household. Instead, there's a lot of pack sleeping, pack chasing, and playing that keeps Mom in giggles.
The elderly can also reap the benefits of caring for an animal, if the elderly person's condition permits. As we age, it's natural that we lose the ability to perform all of the tasks of our youth - tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or even bathing may have to be done by caregivers but caring for animals is fairly easy. Just the act of filling a food bowl and putting it down for a dog to feed can be gratifying to an elderly person.
A few good books about the healing power of pets
Allowing the elderly to keep their pets
There may come a time in an elderly loved one's life when they can no longer stay in their own home. The best thing is to have a relative care for them, hopefully in the elderly person's own home. If that is not a possible choice though, the next best thing is to select a place where the elderly person can take their pet along.
Alway try to accommodate the elderly person's pet in the new living arrangement. It's difficult enough to relocate the elderly without asking that the elderly loved one loses their pet too. If the elderly person is moving in with a caregiver, it might take a while to acclimate the pet to the household but it can be done.
One problem with a senior citizens pet is that the animal might not be well trained as other pets - they might not be fully housebroken or respond to commands. Simply keeping your cool and heading off to a training center will help integrate the dog into the caregiver's home.
My other articles about dogs and seniors
- Good Movies For Senior Citizens
Looking for some good movies for senior citizens? Come visit my blog where Mom rates movies in "arthritic fingers up."
- Tales of a summer with a 91 (now 95!) year old
This is my blog, Gerties Galavants, where I document travels (or not) with 95 year old Gertie.
- Caregiver and elder care article directory
Here you will find a pretty complete list of my caregiving articles. Have a read.
- Introducing Golden Margarita - My rescue dog from the Caribbean island St Croix
Rita was adopted from St. Croix. How to explain golden love? Just look into that face, look at that smile. That's golden love.And, I'm lucky enough to get to look into that face every singl