Many people grow up with pets. Be it a dog, cat, hamster, or fish, that provides a family with loving companionship and loyalty that only a pet can offer. This doesn't go away as we age. A dog or cat can have a very positive impact on the lifestyle of an elderly family member and can become a key part of long-term health care.
Dr. Thomas Schweinberg, staff neuropsychologist for the Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati, says older adults who interact with pets have a positive influence on their quality of life.
It has been well-established that pets have a therapeutic and often calming impact on people in general. However, there is also evidence that, for the elderly, owning and interacting with pets can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction, and increase physical activity.
Health Benefits with Pet Ownership
Schweinberg says these benefits are particularly helpful to the elderly, who often begin to limit their activities and increasingly withdraw from the interpersonal world around them. Additionally, interacting with pets provides the elderly with the opportunity to provide nurturing attention to another being.
Very often, older patients have long not been able to offer nurturance to others and instead have become merely the recipients of nurturing attention and treatment. Being able to provide such nurturance gives them a much-needed sense of purpose, as well as feeling the appreciation and love that their pets have for them.
He says just being able to pet a dog and see its tail wag with delight and appreciation can provide such an indescribable sense of satisfaction and joy for a person in a long-term care situation, be it in their own home, assisted living, or a nursing home. These people are the ones who usually have difficulty finding joy in their everyday lives and can find joy and purpose by taking care of a pet.
Pets offer love and companionship.
Veterinarians See How Pets Benefit Elderly
Dr. Michelle Radwanski, a well-known veterinarian at Argonne Animal Hospital in Lemont, Illinois, has seen firsthand the benefits of pets in her 18+ years of practice.
Radwanski says she became a veterinarian because of the influence her family dog had on her as she grew up. A Shih Tzu named Dusty lived to the age of 17 and was a true companion.
She showed me unconditional love when other did not," she explains. "She was my best friend every single day and was always by my side. I was changed by this little five-pound dog and these same feelings are what I see when seniors decide to care for a pet.
Radwanski sees how pets bring joy back to their lives. They get to experience unconditional love and have a friend by them each day.
Animals improve our mood, improve our health and make us smile more.
Social Interaction and Well-Being
According to the National Institute on Aging, several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults. Social isolation may have significant adverse effects on older adults. A dog or cat can help in this area. Dr. Radwanski says there is no need for anyone, especially a person 50+, to feel this way.
I believe there is a pet for everyone. Every pet has a place in a family, but it has to be a right fit.
Radwanski encourages a family to consider the person's ability to take care of the pet and their needs and limitations. She says older people with limitations can have difficulty providing the right care for a pet.
There are several breeds that are better - Read more about which breeds are great at this on PetKeen.
For those with physical limitations, consider adopting an adult or senior cat that can be content just sitting on their lap for a majority of the day.
Exercising the pet can be as easy as using a laser pen. The cat can be stimulated and get that activity they need without major effort from the older person. If the older family member can walk, the process of walking a dog can be good for both the pet and the person. Radwanski suggests adopting an older dog that won't pull the person as they walk.
Families Should Consider Pet's Health as Well
Just as your older family member's health changes, so does the pet's health change. Radwanski says the animal's health needs also need to be part of the equation when placing a pet with your older family member. A local veterinarian or shelter can help you match your family member with a new animal friend.
Many studies have shown that people who live with animals have lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and lower cholesterol than those living without. Depression is also lessened. This can be a good match for both humans and animals.
I have seen how pets have changed people's lives. They give you a reason to live for every day. The allow you to keep a routine. They make you smile. They give you stories. They give you someone to care for.
Long-Term Care Facilities and Pets
Many assisted living facilities allow pets to live with the residents. Nursing homes allow visits for pets which cheers the residents. If a person is living at home while receiving extended care services, that dog or cat really becomes part of the caregiving team.
If you have an older family member who is transitioning to long-term care, consider a pet to be part of the caregiving team; both the pet and the family member will be better for it.
Hard to Dispute Benefits of Pet Ownership
Pets can provide a multitude of mental, emotional, and physical health benefits for older adults. Mentally, taking care of a pet can bring an increased sense of purpose and help combat loneliness. Many older adults can appreciate the fact that a pet loves them unconditionally, and it can help them to feel needed.
On an emotional level, interacting with a pet can increase feelings of well-being and happiness. Physically, taking care of a pet can have many health benefits. Encouraging older family members to own a pet will help them improve their physical health by encouraging exercise and regular walks, as well as by engaging in more social interaction with pet owners.
Plus, studies have even shown that having a pet can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, and even help to reduce cholesterol.
Furthermore, tending to a pet can help to strengthen manual dexterity, balance, and coordination. Since animals provide unconditional love and companionship, they may be beneficial for older adults who want to stay healthy and happy.
There are several hobbies and activities that older people can take advantage of to stay active and engaged in life. Taking care of pets is one of twenty such activities that experts recommend.
Ready for Retirement
Your older family members hopefully have planned well for their retirement, and you can support them as they age. How about you?
By the time you reach 50, you should have a thorough retirement plan thought out and financial stability that will support the plans you have made. Additionally, you should plan on how to prepare for long-term health care, such as researching and obtaining Long-Term Care Insurance.
It is also wise to plan for possible relocation and downsizing of your home once the kids are gone to account for the aging. Adopting a pet is also a great choice for both companionship and some health benefits as well.
About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017
Caregiving is always hard on family members. Paid care drains savings and adversely impacts lifestyle. The question is what have you done to prepare for the financial costs and burdens of aging? Longevity requires an advance plan. Part of that plan should be Long-Term Care Insurance.
Given the likelihood that you will need help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia, being properly prepared protects savings and promotes independence, helping you to avoid becoming dependent on your loved ones.
Most people indicate they never want to burden their adult children and their families when they get older and need long-term health care. Yet, few people have taken any action to avoid the many negative consequences declining health and aging can have on their families and finances.
As we age, we will eventually need help with basic daily tasks. Long-Term Care Insurance can provide access to quality care, improving your quality of life, even as your physical and cognitive health worsens.
Therefore, it is vital to be prepared for the effects of aging, and to look into the benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance, to ensure access to your choice of quality care without burdening your loved ones or draining your savings.
Having the tax-free resources to pay for quality care will make the aging process a more positive and easier experience for you and your family. You worked hard for the money you have saved for your retirement, don't risk all your savings without preparing for the costs and burden of aging and the consequences that long-term health care will place on your and your loved ones.
Affordable LTC Insurance is the solution many families will use to give the entire family peace of mind. Aging happens, and being prepared will allow you to enjoy your retirement with less worry.
Questions? LTC NEWS Has Answers
LTC NEWS has many tools and resources that can help you in your research as you prepare for your future retirement and plan for the costs and burdens of aging and declining health.
Loved Ones Need Help Now?
Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy.
If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea.
If your parent or parents need help, get them quality care. LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.
Start by reading our four guides -
The Benefits of Today's Reverse Mortgages
Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.
Yes, today's reverse mortgages may be the perfect way to pay for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy or even cover the cost of in-home care if you or a loved one is currently in need.
Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.
- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.
Be Part of LTC NEWS and Help Your Business/Website
Writing an article for LTC NEWS can improve your website or blog's SEO and gain exposure and traffic at the same time by being a contributor to LTC NEWS. Getting your company's website URL on LTC NEWS can improve SEO by helping to increase your visibility online. Additionally, being on LTC NEWS can help boost your website's authority in the eyes of Google and other search engines, leading to a higher ranking in search results.
You can promote yourself, your business, and your website or blog. It can include links to other sites, and you can share the article link once
published on your website or social media. However, it must have editorial content exclusive to LTC NEWS and not just an advertisement.
Marketing and Advertising on LTC NEWS
LTC NEWS can help you drive traffic to your website and attract people who are interested in your products and services. Furthermore, you can also improve the SEO of your website so your site shows higher on the search engines. The goal is to get more customers that can find you when they search for your products and services.
There are various marketing options available with LTC NEWS. Traditional advertising, sponsored content articles, strategic alliances, and more are available.
Learn more about how LTC NEWS can help market your business, drive traffic, and improve SEO - Advertise With Us | LTC News.
Sharing News with LTC NEWS
Include LTC NEWS in your press release distribution. If your group, organization, business, political committee, etc., have news to share, send it to LTC NEWS. Email - email@example.com