Animal companions provide some of the most important services to seniors and people with disabilities. Numerous studies show that animal companions can prevent loneliness — an issue that can lead to depression and even death for many people. Loneliness correlates with increased risk of heart disease, accelerated cognitive decline, depression, decreased immune response, inflammation, increases in stress and atypical hormone levels, and disruptions in sleep patterns. By the numbers, social isolation is as dangerous as smoking or obesity, especially for seniors.
Animals are also beneficial for improving heart health. Studies have shown owning a pet – especially a dog – can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many reasons that can explain this link, but the general understanding is dog owners tend to exercise more regularly and lead a healthier lifestyle.
There are so many other benefits to having an animal companion — reduced stress levels, improved mental health, and even emergency response services if the pet is a support animal.
5 Ways to Help Clients Interact with Animals
Home caregivers certainly know the importance of a healthy lifestyle. But what if your clients are not able to have an animal companion? Due to factors such as physical limitations and housing restrictions, it’s not always possible to have a pet. If you’re a home caregiver, try these 5 creative ways to help your clients interact with animals when they can’t have one of their own.
1. Apply for an emotional support animal.
First, if your client really wants an animal companion but is facing obstacles like housing restrictions, look into options for emotional support animals or service animals. In many cases, restrictions are waived for these types of animal companions. Service animals can be especially beneficial for people who have severe disabilities — there are even dogs that are trained to know when a person is about to have a seizure. Support animals also come in all shapes and sizes. From chickens to cats, from parrots to dogs, there is bound to be a service animal that is right for your client.
2. Go to a dog park.
Can’t have a dog? Take a stroll to the nearest dog park, get comfy on a bench, and let the dogs come to you. As a home caregiver, you can let dog owners know that your client wants to interact with the dogs. Visiting a dog park also provides the added benefits of getting fresh air, getting a little exercise, and interacting with the community.
3. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
Many animal shelters need volunteers to do simple things — from walking dogs, to simply saying hello to the animals. There are even programs in which seniors and people with disabilities read to dogs and cats. You also don’t need to limit yourself to canine and feline friends. There are animal shelters for birds, bunnies, rodents, and other types of animal companions.
4. Foster an animal.
Sometimes people are not able to have animal companions due to the time commitment. Maybe a client is nearing the end of their life journey and would not want to leave an animal companion orphaned after they passed. Fostering could be a solution. Many programs — especially for smaller animals like rabbits — only need time commitments of a few weeks to a month. There are also programs that will provide all of the food and necessities that would be needed to care for an animal, so finances do not need to be an obstacle either.
5. Visit the zoo.
Many zoos have changed their practices and now treat their animals very humanely. Zoos also often double as sanctuaries for exotic animals that could not be rehabilitated into the wild. A well-planned trip to the zoo during feeding times will allow for more interaction with the animals, too. And just like visiting a dog park, an outing to the zoo will also provide fresh air and exercise. Not to mention many fun photo opportunities!
The Benefits of Home Care Services
Home care services allow people to age and recover within the comfort of their own home. Home caregiving also extends beyond that by providing support in all areas of a person’s life. This includes helping people interact with animals and to care for animal companions of their own. Do you need home care services? Alegre Home Care has one of the best reputations in all of Northern California. Contact us today at one of our many locations!
Are you interested in being a home caregiver? We’re hiring! Home care is a rewarding field that provides a much needed service to humanity. Inquire about career opportunities here.