Elderly people are more susceptible to bouts of depression or loneliness than the average adult in the population, and this is often because they have lost a spouse or several other relatives or close friends.
Even though family members may come and visit them in an assisted living facility as often as possible, it isn’t quite the same as having a companion who lives there. This is why many elderly people – especially those who have recently become widowed – may opt to adopt a pet. If this person decides to move to an assisted living facility, they may even choose to bring their pet with them.
Benefits And Risks
Overall, having a pet is extremely beneficial. Many modern assisted living facilities and a majority of assisted living communities welcome seniors and their pets.
The companionship that a pet offers is one of the biggest benefits. Not only are pets great for companionship, but a friendly, fluffy dog or cat means that the elderly person has someone to greet them in the morning, and go to bed with at night. This gives them a sense of security and comfort throughout the day and night. Also, caring for their pet provides an elderly person with a sense of purpose.
The only risk that comes from owning a pet in an assisted living facility arises when the resident is too ill to care for their pet. Caring for a pet can be hard work. They have to be walked and bathed and fed regularly and this can be challenging for a senior who has trouble moving about.
For those who are wheelchair bound or for those with limited mobility, a cat may be the best option, as they do not need daily walks, and older cats aren’t nearly as active as kittens. .
How Pet Therapy Can Help The Elderly
Scientific studies have shown that spending fifteen minutes with a cat or dog helps to decrease cortisol and increase serotonin levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that triggers a “fight or flight” response in people, while serotonin is the hormone used to help people relax and remain calm. Stroking the fur of and talking to a beloved pet can help keep Alzheimer’s at bay and caring for a pet brings a sense of satisfaction and companionship to people.
Not all assisted living facilities allow residents to keep pets. This is where therapy animals may be more welcome, so that if a senior is allergic to certain types of animal hair they don’t have to be exposed to the animal.
Therapy animals help seniors feel more connected to each other and to the staff, and nearly everyone’s day is brightened when a friendly, fluffy animal shows up for pets, cuddles, and therapy sessions.
If your elderly loved one is moving into an assisted living community, make sure their pet is welcome. For many seniors, if the dog or cat isn’t welcome, they will be less likely to move there.
Pets are a great addition to any family, no matter how old their caregivers are. If your loved one has a pet, it is important to look into pet-friendly assisted living communities so neither your loved one nor their pet feels abandoned by the move.