There’s no doubt that getting an elder loved one a pet can help with loneliness and companionship issues, but family caregivers need to give the situation a lot of thought before taking any action. Not only does it require commitment on the part of the aging loved one, but the family caregiver is really committing as well. The potential benefits of adding a pet to the family are well-documented, but it’s important for caregivers to weigh out the potential difficulties as well.
The benefits of adopting a dog or cat are well-known, especially when it comes to elders. A companion animal can help elders feel less lonely and gives them something to devote their time and attention to. Especially when children are grown and a career is in the rear-view mirror, many seniors have a hard time adjusting to empty days and nobody to care for. Pets can provide that companionship and they welcome all the attention.
Dogs and cats can also help elders with anxiety, depression and stress. Dogs in particular require physical activity for their care, and short walks are an excellent way for seniors to get some exercise in and not put it off. In fact, studies show that dog owners get more exercise in per week than non-dog owners, regardless of age. Dogs actually provide other health benefits in that dog owners have a reduced risk of heart attack and experience lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Because dogs and cats require structure and a set care schedule, they are good for elders who need some motivation to get out of bed and get involved.
Of course, there are some serious considerations to take into account with a new dog or cat. New pets are a big commitment in terms of time, money and emotional investment. Because family caregivers are already taking on some or most of the care for their aging loved one, they are also adding a pet that might need care.
If their aging loved one’s health declines to the point where they must pass on pet care activities, those will fall to the family members or elder care assistants. Another thing to think about is how to choose the right kind of dog or cat for an aging loved one’s lifestyle. Health and wellness considerations must be taken into account. In other words, just because a senior falls in love with an energetic lab doesn’t meant that’s the right pet for the circumstances.
All in all, getting a pet for an elderly loved one is generally a good idea, but it’s a decision that should be carefully assessed and examined. If the right pet can enhance an elder’s life and proper care isn’t that much of interference, then it’s probably a great idea. If adding a dog or cat will simply be one more burden or demand on everyone’s time and money, then other options should be entertained. Getting a pet in one’s later years is definitely a complicated decision, but as long as everyone has looked at the pros and cons, it can be an excellent way to add richness and love to the home.