Without question, the best part of my job as a Home Care Specialist with Care Advantage (other than meeting the people and families we serve) is meeting their pets! I have bonded with animals for as long as I can remember. Having grown up with dogs, cats, ducks, geese, ponies and horses, I not only have great memories and experiences, but also developed a strong compassion for all living things, especially the voiceless.
I specifically remember coming home from school one day and was greeted by a couple of new animals - a three-legged cat, and a VERY short legged dog with a very large head whose name was Jolene. I asked my mom where they came from and I will never forget her reply. “I went to the shelter and asked for the animals no one wanted. Just bring them out, I don’t even want to see them.” It was in that moment that I realized just how cool my parents were. That act of kindness led to a deeper understanding of animals and their eternal gratitude and unconditional love.
Fast forward to 2020 where I have the pleasure of working with seniors in an unconventional year filled with uncertainty, sadness, loneliness, and isolation. Now more than ever, our seniors need companionship, exercise, socialization, and comfort.
There are countless benefits to seniors having pets. A pet can have a very positive impact on the social, physical and emotional well-being of seniors. Did you know that just petting an animal can result in reduced levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and increased levels of oxytocin, the anti-stress calming hormone? Here are some other health benefits for seniors who have pets:
* LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE, CHOLESTEROL, HEART RATE, ANDREDUCES THE RISK OF CORONARY HEART DISEASE. Social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and poor physical health. It turns out giving and receiving unconditional love is literally good for your heart.
* PROVIDES COMFORT AND HEALING POWERS. Many seniors report animal companions help in coping with medical treatments and recovery after illnesses. Dogs, cats, and other animals can be keenly sensitive to their human’s distress and discomfort.
* EASES ANXIETY AND PAIN: Anxiety exacerbates pain. By reducing anxiety, pets can help ease pain for seniors who may experience conditions like arthritis, therefore reducing the need for pain meds.
* REDUCES DEPRESSION: While you are just one person in a big world, you ARE a pet’s entire world. Making the commitment to care for a pet give seniors daily structure therefore reducing stress and helps give a sense of purpose.
* INCREASES MOBILITY AND INDEPENDENCE: A daily outdoor walk with a pet is a healthy, low stress form of exercise. Also, pets can alert seniors with hearing loss when the doorbell rings or an alarm goes off.
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia can benefit from pet therapy as well. By their very nature, pets do not judge and are not harsh or critical. For someone with dementia these are all good qualities for a good companion. Those of us lucky enough to have pets know that life is SO much better with at least one furry friend. Ask me about my five rescues anytime!
“Everybody deserves somebody who makes them look forward to tomorrow” – Susan Vogel
About Susan: Susan is one of our Home Care Specialists in the Central Virginia area. She speaks with families and facilities about personal care for your loved ones. Susan is passionate about caring for those who cannot care for themselves and works tirelessly to answer the call of care any time, day or night.