How keeping pets can help to keep you healthy...
For most people, looking after a pet may hold valuable therapeutic benefits. Those of us with pets will understand that they become far more than ‘a pet’. They are a member of the family with individual character that provides companionship, unconditional love and acceptance. We create a special bond with our pets, and they mean a lot to us. We talk to them and sometimes, in their own way, they talk back! Intelligent animals like cats and dogs seem to understand how you’re feeling. They are intuitive, loving, and a joy to live with.
As we become older our social circles can get much smaller. A spouse may have passed away and with modern families being more dispersed, it is easy to become isolated. A pet may turn out to be a great source of comfort and make a huge difference as a source of daily companionship. Some older people may have given up hobbies and interests that they are no longer able to do. In these situations, a pet can help to pass the time and prevent someone from feeling lonely.
Help with the daily routine
For many older people, their pet becomes their lifeline. Some older people may become quite insular and stop leaving the house frequently. Some may not even bother to go shopping for themselves. Needing to feed a pet gives them a reason to leave the house and someone to keep them company on the walk to the shop. They will often make more of an effort to ensure their pet is looked after than themselves.
A dog can also help to stimulate social interaction as it is a great conversation starter and people will often approach to interact with the dog. Dogs need to be walked regularly and this is a great way to ensure a daily dose of exercise. Cats can also be a calming and relaxing source of company, either sat on your lap or watching them nap.
Pets can help to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness but also provide that important motivation to complete daily activities. The health benefits that this can amount to for an elderly person are quite striking. Many hospitals have now started to adopt pet therapy to help boost the well-being of their patients.
Having a pet can help to:
- Alleviate loneliness, isolation, and depression
- Produce a calming effect, slightly reducing blood pressure and heart rate
- Provide a sense of worth and responsibility
- Encourage a more active lifestyle
- Ease the loss of a loved one
Some extra help
Some elderly people may worry that they would be unable to look after a pet as well as they would like. They may have limited mobility and be unable to walk a dog, or struggle to get to the shops for food. In this case, assistance with keeping a pet is something that can be combined with a home care service.
A huge advantage of staying at home is being able to keep pets, who wouldn’t be allowed in a care home. Although some care homes do allow visiting animals for petting therapy, this isn’t the same as living with your own pet.