Community Blog

There’s Good News and Bad for Seniors Who Own Pets

By Debbie Humphrey

Our pets are like family members. They show us unconditional love and bring us great joy each and every day. They greet us with wagging tails, wet kisses, or in the case of felines, gentle purrs and loving head-bunts.

As if you needed another reason to love Fido & Fluffy, there are many health benefits to be gained by seniors who own pets, which is confirmed by a source cited in an article on AginginPlace.org that says, “In the case of senior citizens, just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or flight hormone, coritsol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.”

On planes, trains, in malls and grocery stores, beloved pets serve as more than just our wet-nosed companions these days. More and more, service and emotional support animals accompany seniors, the disabled and those suffering from anxiety and depression, to bring a sense of purpose and calm to their owners.

Service dogs, in particular, can be a great source of security for seniors, too, especially if they are aging at home alone. Not only are they capable of scaring away potential burglars with their barks, but some are trained specifically to summons first responders in an emergency, or alert their owner when a health crisis is imminent. For example, some dogs can alert their diabetic owners when they sense sugar levels are dropping too low.

For seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Sundowners, and forms of Dementia, pets have a way of stimulating a response, even when communication is difficult. “Pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming, and offer a way to feel needed and connected with the world. Nighttime can be very confusing and disorienting for folks with Alzheimer’s disease. This is when…patients try to run away or leave their home. A pet can prevent this issue by keeping (them) connected and occupied.”

Not everything is wonderful for seniors who own pets, though. Smaller animals can become tripping hazards if they get under-foot. Younger puppies and kittens have a lot of energy to expend, so tending to their needs and keeping them properly exercised can become burdensome for aging adults with certain health conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis.

Furthermore, even though old wives have told us tales that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans, it is not necessary true. Human saliva contains different bacteria than those found in dogs and cats, and allowing pets to lick open wounds and give sloppy, mouth kisses can lead to serious – sometimes fatal – illnesses, like sepsis.

Furry friends will always have an important place in humans’ lives, but it’s important to be aware of the negative aspects, as well as the positive ones, especially when it comes to seniors who own pets. Fido & Fluffy are beloved companions, they bring a measure of security, they exude energy, encourage exercise, and they stimulate things in our hearts, minds and bodies that frequently make life seem a whole lot better!

If you or a special senior someone you know does not have a pet, but can use some companionship, love and TLC, call me. I am happy to offer a FREE consultation so you can learn more about the many services we offer.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539

Sources: AginginPlace.org National Geographic