The benefits of dogs for seniors are hard to overstate. A canine companion can make senior living easier, happier, and more comfortable, and taking care of a pet can have a real, tangible impact on certain debilitation conditions, like dementia or arthritis.
Unlike the more restrictive senior living situation of a nursing home or other care facility, home care is by nature much more flexible when it comes to keeping pets. Indeed, many home caregivers encourage seniors to adopt a pet, recognizing the huge positive benefits of dogs for seniors and incorporating those animals into their care practice. The home caregiver can even help to take care of the dog, if the owner has become less able, so home care situations often allow seniors to keep their pets rather than having to re-home them.
Here are our top ten reasons why dogs are a senior’s best friend:
The first benefit is perhaps the most obvious. Even with a home caregiver, senior living can be solitary for long periods of time. When it comes to companionship and alleviating loneliness, the benefits of dogs for seniors are hard to match.
#2. Relief from Mental Infirmities
Keeping a pet can help with a variety of mental infirmities, especially dementia and Alzheimer’s. Interacting with a pet helps add a familiarity and regularity that is often missing from senior living, and the routines can be very helpful. For instance, people with dementia often forget to eat. A barking dog asking to be fed can help regularize meal times.
#3. Keeping Active
Dogs encourage seniors to get up, get outside, take walks, or even just move about the house. Consistent light exercise can ease the pain of arthritis or help with recovery from surgery.
#4. Play, to Keep the Mind Sharp
Even in home care settings, it can be difficult for seniors to keep their minds sharp. Playing with a dog can stimulate those mental faculties, keeping one’s brain engaged and reacting to the dynamic interplay.
#5. Reduce Stress
Petting a dog, caring for a pet, or even just spending time with an animal has been consistently shown in laboratory settings to reduce cortisol (a hormone involved in experiencing stress) and to massively elevate serotonin (a neurotransmitter which causes, among other things, a feeling of wellness). Having a dog to care for, then, can reduce stress, and increase happiness.
#6. Trained Therapy Dogs
Dogs can be trained for any number of complex procedures. Many dogs are trained to assist those with compromised vision, but therapy dogs have other talents. Some service dogs have heart attack response training, activating a medic alarm, and others are trained to respond to seizures with specific assistive behaviors.
Senior living can entail a certain vulnerability. Having a dog, even a small dog, can often be a deterrent against assault or home invasion. In case of emergency, a dog’s barking often wakes its owner in time to call emergency response services, and there have been instances of dogs dragging their humans from burning buildings. Clever and able bodied, dogs make helpful companions for the elderly or infirm.
#8. A Reason for Future Planning
Many seniors avoid the uncomfortable realities of planning for the future. Children often have difficulty getting their elderly parents to discuss things like wills, or estate planning. Having a pet to care for, who may outlive its owner, can provide a calmer way of introducing sensitive topics. That can make the experience of planning for the future a thoughtful, comforting experience.
One of the best parts of home care is the freedom that it affords. The dignity of living in one’s own home, and the freedom to control one’s own schedule and habits, allows for a greater degree of social freedom. Dogs are a wonderful way to meet new people and grow one’s social circle. Bringing dogs to the park together, or setting up visits at home, dogs can provide a focal point for social interaction, breaking the ice and motivating seniors to spend more time with friends.
#10. Research, Reading, and Learning
As one ages, there are fewer reasons to learn something new, or to explore a new body of knowledge. It’s easy to get set into routine. Getting a dog is an opportunity to research different breeds, learn about different patterns and habits, and become used to different expressions and body language. Through routine veterinary appointments, too, more knowledge and responsibilities are some of the most invigorating benefits of dogs for seniors.
Do you need home care services in California?
Caring for a dog is a great way to stay active, healthy, alert, and focused, in one’s old age. A therapy dog can have a real, tangible impact on home care, but any pet is a wonderful addition to a home, particularly for seniors. If you’d like to learn more about home care, and the benefits it can bestow, we welcome you to give us a call and find out more. Serving California for over 20 years, we can help with any questions or provide information about any services unique to your area. There is no substitute for real experience, so call today!