Pets and Companionship: Is a pet a good idea for your aging loved one?

shutterstock_162836570There’s nothing better than coming home to a companion who cannot contain their excitement to see you, jumping up and down, waiting for you to say hi.

As our parents age, it’s only natural that we begin to worry about them living on their own—especially if they have been widowed.  

Many studies have shown the various positive impacts dogs, and other household pets, have on the mood and health of our aging loved ones.

Having a pet enables your loved one to get into a routine. Instead of not having much to do or take care of during the day, having a pet gives your loved one something to do. Having to feed, walk and clean up after a pet establishes a routine, and gives your loved one something to look forward to.

The preoccupations of a pet can also get your loved one’s mind focused on something else, opposed to the sometimes dreariness of aging. The companionship provided by a pet can help prevent and even reduce depression.

Those who own dogs tend to get out and walk more, which in itself has a myriad of health benefits. Pet owners tend to experience lessened anxiety and lower blood pressure as well. 

Although considering a pet for your loved one may be an excellent idea, there are a few things to take into consideration before settling on which pet is the best fit.

Activity and Interaction

First, consider how much activity your loved one is capable of. Are they still able to get up and get out of the house on their own? Are they easily fatigued? Someone who has difficulty getting out of the house may not benefit from a dog, as they require a lot of exercise and involvement. Cats, Guinea pigs and birds all offer companionship, but with less effort.

Whereas dogs offer high levels of companionship and interaction, they come with high levels of care needs.  Cats are great for sitting and petting, and are very low maintenance. Both cats and dogs are excellent at reading their owner’s moods and keeping them company.

Age of the Pet

Although playfully and cuddly, a puppy may not be the best option for your loved one. Their high energy is sure to make your loved one feel happy, but could also wear them out. An older dog may be adopted from the local shelter, and is sure to still provide your loved one with a routine, companionship and an excuse to get out of the house.

Depending how old your aging loved one is and where they are in their journey of life, should help to determine what age span you’re looking for in a pet. Getting a pet that outlives your loved one, may end up being a burden on another family member. Getting your loved one attached to a pet that then passes may be emotionally hard to handle.

Increased Social Life

Owning a dog makes your loved one get out of the house and walk their furry friend. Not only does this improve their health, but it also increases their chance of making friends. 62% of pet owners said having a pet made it easier to start conversations and create a friendly environment.

Even if you plan carefully and pick the best pet for your aging loved one, it can still be a huge commitment. Make sure your loved one is on-board with getting a pet, and ready to take on the extra care. Don’t forget that as part of Private Home Care Services’ in-home care giving, we help to take care of pets, giving your loved one the companionship they need, without the hassle.

About Joan Cisneros LPN

Joan Cisneros is COO and Agency Manager at Private Home Care Services of Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Joan has over 25 years of professional healthcare experience, including Private Duty Home Care, nursing, insurance, case management, training, and operations. Her area of expertise is Alzheimer¹s care, which she knows from both a professional and personal perspective. Her solid capabilities are enhanced by her compassionate approach and her personal mission to help people maintain their independence by providing the best possible home care.