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Health Benefits of Pets for Elderly People
Categories: Prevention, Senior Care Tips, Taking Care of Yourself | Posted: 7/17/2013 | Views: 4988

It appears that owning a pet can be very good for you! For seniors, it can literally save lives. What kinds of pets and how to go about owning a pet are considerations as well as how capable a person is. A pet is a great asset but can also be a big responsibility.


Health Benefits

Just looking at heart disease alone, it turns out that owning a pet actually helps in several different ways. First, we release certain chemicals when we feel stressed out. These chemicals can cause inflammation in our arteries that lead to plaque buildup. But, pet owners show increases in other chemicals – namely serotonin and dopamine – which relax a person and reduce the stress that can be so hard on our bodies.

Other research showed that men who own pets had lower triglycerides and cholesterol than their same age peers without pets. And, those who have pets are likely to live longer after a heart attack than those without. Also, those people who are at most risk for heart disease are people who are lonely. Pets can offer a buffer against loneliness. And more research yet shows that pet owners have lower blood pressure!

Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms may also be milder in those who own pets. One of the hardest things to deal with related to Alzheimer’s is the anger outbursts. But, those seniors with pets in the home have fewer of these outbursts. And, it can be a way to have a meaningful routine and “job” that provides meaning and structure to the day. Taking care of pets and having a routine can help ward off depression. Also, the exercise in walking a dog can not only be enjoyable, but also improve circulation and heart health which is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

What about Caregivers and Pets?

Well, it turns out that sometimes caregivers do not want another “charge” to take care of. But, those who do often find it is enjoyable. For one thing, a pet offers both the caregiver and the senior unconditional love and cheerfulness that can highlight an otherwise dull day. All the benefits that seniors have with their health also would apply to caregivers as well.

Seniors and Pets - Things to Consider

It is important, though, to realize that it is not all wonderful or easy. People with pets also have accidents because of their pets. Some estimates show that over 86,000 fall injuries each year are associated with cats or dogs. For the elderly, these falls can be very dangerous. And, while pets may ward off loneliness and depression, the death of a beloved pet can be very upsetting to an elderly person living alone.

Some of the responsibilities to consider involve whether the elderly person can afford pet ownership. Vet bills, medications, food, and other costs to keep pets well can add up. For dog owners in particular, another consideration is whether an elderly person can really walk the dog regularly. This can become stressful if mobility becomes a concern.

For caregivers and/or seniors considering pet ownership, cats are somewhat easier than dogs since they do not need to be walked daily and are less likely to cause injury to the owner. The most common cat injury is tripping over the cat. Even less maintenance animals can bring some of the above benefits without much stress such as a bird or a fish.


Chris Says:
8/28/2013 11:42:11 AM
One more reason why I love my cats.
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