Animals offer opportunities for joy, exercise and more
- Posted on Feb 14, 2019
This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.
For a family dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, a friendly pet can be especially rewarding. In addition to helping combat depression, animals require care, which gives us a sense of purpose. Best of all, they offer unconditional love and can be a special “lifeline” to the person with dementia.
For someone who has Alzheimer’s or another dementia, animals:
· Offer boundless affection and unconditional love. Having a dog or cat to cuddle is a great source of joy.
· Give the person meaningful responsibilities. Walking or grooming a pet every day are important tasks (even if some supervision is necessary). Daily chores lead to a feeling of accomplishment when they’re completed.
· Bring fun into your life. Memories of happy times can be reclaimed when your loved one watches the cat leap into the air to catch a feather, chase a ball or meow at a bird through the window.
· Provide sensory stimulation. As the Alzheimer’s disease advances, it will become more and more important for this person to get sensory stimulation. Having a lap animal to pet, or a cuddly creature by his or her side provides comfort and may even reduce agitation and anxiety.
· Allow for greater socialization. Your loved one may enjoy chatting about the pet and its unique characteristics, and finding information about the particular breed from books or the Internet. Pets are also a fun way to spend more time with young children, since they are often fascinated by the exploits of animals.
· Offer a reason to go outdoors. Like many elders, people with dementia tend to spend most of their time inside. Walking the dog provides for an excuse to get out. Being outside provides sensory stimulation (the smell of fresh flowers, the sound of lawns being mowed and the sight of flowers and trees). It also floods us with natural Vitamin D, which we all need.
Make sure before you bring a pet onboard that your loved one is able to handle the proper care. If not, you don’t have to go it alone. Most in-home workers will take care of simple pet chores or walks. Also, a growing number of senior residential care programs allow a well behaved pet.
Sometimes a “lower-maintenance” choice like a fish aquarium or birds makes more sense. They can pique interest without demanding quite as much work. If having a pet doesn’t meet your loved one’s needs, see if a friendly neighbor or local pet therapy group is available to drop by with an animal to visit. That’s the best of both worlds—time with friendly and life-affirming animals without all the responsibility!