Stress can play a major role in many senior-related illnesses, for instance, Parkinson’s Disease, cardiovascular problems, dementia, digestive health, pulmonary, diabetes, depression, and social isolation.
Reducing stress is always a major consideration when dealing with chronic health issues. Stress can bring on an asthma attack, cause glucose levels to climb or even increase depression. While most of us know we need to keep our stress levels from getting too high, we often find it difficult to achieve the goal of keeping it to a manageable level.
Let’s be clear: everyone has stress in their lives and there is no way around it. In fact, some stress is good for us as it motivates us to do the right things for ourselves. It’s when stress starts to impact us in a negative way that we need to look for methods to reduce it.
Bringing in Outside Assistance
When you think about bringing in outside help, your first thought probably doesn't turn to a furry friend. However, when you consider some of the benefits, it may be a really good alternative--especially for seniors that have had pets before.
Many seniors give up their pets in their 60’s and 70’s because they don’t want to be held down by taking care of a pet when they could instead be traveling or spending time with family or friends. However, as we age we often don’t have as many chances to travel and a pet can fill a void in our lives. First of all, taking care of another living thing often adds meaning to someone's life. They depend on you, so you get up in the morning and take care of them. When someone cares about something they also will take better care of themselves so they can continue to care for, in this case, their pet. It’s similar to Comfort Keepers Interactive Caregiving Model we use for providing services to our clients. In this model, Elevating the Human Spirit is part of how we help our clients look forward to each day.
There is more to just caring for a pet than feeding and grooming them. They also give us a chance to get exercise by walking with our pet, cleaning out a litter box, and generally keeping up with the daily tasks created by our furry friend. In return, you get the affection of a cat or dog on a regular basis. Obviously, this affection can vary from the type of pet, but so can the amount of work you have to put into caring for them. Cats tend to be much easier to care for and less needy than dogs.
Pets Aren’t for Everyone
Certainly, pets are not for everyone. It probably would not be wise to get your first puppy at age 85 or if you have dementia. It would generally be a good idea to make sure you also have someone that can adequately assist a senior with the animal if they have a physical or travel situation come up. Boarding pets can be expensive and emergency health issues can create difficulty for owners if they haven’t thought the process through. A neighbor or relative that is ready to step in and help with the pet care, for instance, can be on everyone’s minds when the situation comes up.
Finding a Pet
Rather than getting a pet that needs to be housebroken and trained from scratch, a good option may be finding an animal that is up for adoption. The Animal Humane Society is always a good place to go and get a chance to greet a potential new housemate and even sit with them for a while. They typically have some good information about each animal and why the previous owner decided to place them. Most humane societies have separate rooms where you can go and sit with the dog or cat and play with them for an extended period of time. If you decide that the pet you choose is not a great fit, you can bring them back to the Humane Society for a credit. Expect there to be a fee associated with adopting rescue pets through the Animal Humane Society.
There are also a plethora of dog and cat adoption organizations. If you have figured out you want a specific type of dog or cat there is likely an organization that specializes in adopting that breed. If not, there are organizations that have a large variety of breeds that are worthwhile checking into. Like this one for Dogs for Adoption.
Other Pet Therapy Options
There are some people in our senior community that cannot have pets because they would not be a good fit for their health situation. It may work for someone with dementia to get a Joy for All companion pet from Ageless Innovations. This type of pet is now very affordable, it purrs, meows rolls over and responds to touch. For many people with dementia, this sort of activity is very relaxing as they hold an animated pet. They have a golden retriever puppy too--who wouldn’t want that!
There are also many volunteer organizations with animal therapy programs like Therapy Dogs International that will make in-home visits to individuals.
Breaking the Cycle of Stress
No matter how you do it, breaking away from the often-times disastrous results of too much stress is very important. There are so many things we can do today both medicinally and physically that can help with stress we should all take up the challenge of helping our senior loved ones.