Could a pet be the answer to your loved one's loneliness?
There is a special bond and connection between individuals and their pets. Pets provide unconditional love and support in many ways! They expect nothing aside from food, water, and love from time to time. The relationship is one that brings joy, smiles, and has obvious health benefits. Many more seniors for a variety of reasons (mostly cost and quality of life) are choosing to remain in their homes and age in place. There are so many benefits to doing this if it is possible and planned for properly. However, some seniors are living alone which can lead to loneliness and have negative impacts on general health and cognition. Could a pet be the solution to this? I say yes, but with proper planning. Everyone at every age wants purpose and normalcy. As we grow older we are sometimes dependent upon others or have people constantly wanting to do everything for us. This can be frustrating and lead to anxiety and depression. Having a pet and someone for a senior to provide care for can be enriching and truly beneficial. Pets can also assist with cognition as it can help to keep the senior on a schedule and on track. And just like a hug which is seen to reduce stress and blood pressure, curling up with a cat or dog each evening can provide the same health benefits and comfort. It can be fun too!
Before moving forward with this see my guidelines below:
1. Be realistic when choosing! If your family member is 98 and has mobility issues then a puppy is not going to be the best choice clearly! Perhaps a quiet bird, a fish, a hamster, a guinea pig, a bunny, or other may fit the bill!
2. Consider the animals that they have had in the past. If they are familiar with the care then it will be easier for them.
3. Build in time to assist with areas that they may not be able to handle independently, such as cage cleaning, water changes, or litter box cleaning. Obtain any automated aids on the market to make cleaning and maintenance easier.
4. Have an emergency plan in place to care for the animal! If your loved one has an emergency someone will need to assume the care for their little friend!
If we are creative and plan well we can assisting in ending or at least limiting loneness for seniors!