People don’t normally associate assisted living with pet fostering services. When we have had pets in the past, they were normally the property of one of our residents. We knew the benefits that accrue when we have pets for the elderly residents. We just didn’t know how to keep the pets around when a resident with a pet left one of our homes.
About a month or two ago, one of our residents was inquiring about volunteer opportunities. So we looked on the Volunteer Match website. What we found was Pammy’s 2nd Chance Rescue Service. We have joined the fostering family. Our assisted living residents are really enjoying fostering pets in preparation to find a permanent family.
You can call Pammy at 623 698 5967 if you are interested in fostering or adopting. Or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their Facebook page is here. They also sponsor adoption events most Saturday mornings at:
The Petco in Goodyear also has Pammy’s cats to adopt every day.
Pammy has an amazing story. She truly cares for these pets and does amazing things for them. They exist on donations, which means caring for the pets can be tough. Pammy regularly makes the drive from Phoenix to Mexico for veterinary services for her pets. She doesn’t receive any kind of salary, and any donations go directly to the pets. If you are interested in donating either time or money, please give to this wonderful cause.
Speaking of wonderful causes, I did some research. It seems obvious that pets for the elderly will make them smile. There are also lots of other reasons that we want pets for the elderly residents in our homes. Here are seven of them.
Pets for the Elderly Means Improved Health
According to some scientific studies:
Just 15 minutes bonding with an animal sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. The result: heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop.
In other studies over the long term, the health effects of pets for the elderly include:
- Lower cholesterol
- Fight depression
- May even reduce the risk of heart attach and stroke
Pets Combat Loneliness and Isolation
We brought our first foster dog, Miya into our home on 135th Drive about a month ago. Right away you could see some changes in the residents who are normally quiet and withdrawn. The smiles started almost immediately.
Since then we see a lot of the residents petting Miya. The smiles continue. What we see is backed up by Science. “Pet ownership may attenuate loneliness among older adult primary care patients who live alone” was a study by the National Institute of Health. It found pets for the elderly decreased loneliness. Specifically it’s results stated:
Pet owners were 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness, in a model controlling for age, living status (i.e., alone vs. not alone), happy mood, and seasonal residency. An interaction was found between pet ownership and living status in which living alone and not owning a pet was associated with the greatest odds of reporting feelings of loneliness.
Here’s a video showing the huge problem of loneliness in the elderly population today:
Could pets for the elderly be the answer?
Pets for the Elderly Improve Cardiovascular Health
The Age and Aging Organization did a study looking into why so many elderly people don’t exercise. The results of the study found:
- Almost all participants (95%) believed that physical activity was beneficial
- 36% did no leisure time physical activity
- 17% did less than 2 hours per week
- The most powerful deterrent was lack of interest
- Other factors included
- Lack of daily access to a car
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pain
- Dislike of going out alone or in the evening
- Perceived lack of fitness, lack of energy
- Doubting that exercise can lengthen life
- Not belonging to a group and
- Doubting that meeting new people is beneficial.
To sum up the conclusions from the study, people needed a reason to exercise. That’s what pets for the elderly can do for them.
The obvious benefit here is that pets may encourage their elderly owners to take them for walks. That is definitely a big benefit to improve their fitness level. The less obvious is that owners have to move around to feed, bathe, cuddle or clean up after the pet. Just these small acts of movement can make a difference in a elderly person’s fitness level and health. And Pets definitely give elderly people the motivation to move!
Pets Give the Elderly a Purpose in Life
The magazine Psychology Today has an article stating that over 70 studies have been done to study whether people have a purpose in life. The studies show that:
“the sense of purpose in life tends to peak during late adolescence/young adulthood and then actually begins to decline throughout middle adulthood and drops sharply through late adulthood.”
The feeling is that many people accomplish their goals by the age of 55 or so. Retirement is a time where there is nothing to do. Sure it sounds great when you’re working. But when you have tons of time on your hands and nothing to do, it can be frustrating.
Residents at our homes are always wanting more activities, even though we have a lot scheduled. Many even volunteer to help with chores around the home. People want to feel like they are contributing. Otherwise they become bored and possibly depressed.
Taking care of an animal brings back that sense of purpose. We brought up a lack of sense of purpose as one of the reasons we see people move into our care homes in a recent blog post. The post was “5 Most Successful Ways to Avoid A Nursing Home (from an Assisted Living Homeowner)“. Providing pets for the elderly is a great way to help them avoid a nursing home by giving them purpose.
Keeps the Grandkids Around
Ok so this isn’t the most scientific reason for providing pets for the elderly. But I bet it’s a very convincing one! Sometimes it’s difficult to convince grandkids to go see their elderly grandparent who is not moving or talking so well. Lots of young people these days would rather play on their phone or computer.
Throw in a cat or dog as incentive, and all of a sudden those same grandkids are leading the charge to go to Grandma’s house. Check out this video of a child playing with his Grandmother’s dog at the park. It has received over 18 million views so far:
Just as there are so many benefits of pets for the elderly, many of the same benefits apply to pets for children. Therefore putting elderly people together with young children may have a synergistic effect on both generations. If nothing else, Mom or Dad will be very happy to see their grand kids. Even if their grand kids are mostly there to see the pet.
Pets for the Elderly Help with Dementia
Another study (sorry I cite so many studies, but I want to show the scientific backing for the benefits of pets) tested the benefits of having a resident dog vs. a visiting dog in an Alzheimer’s care unit. They kept track of the behavior of the residents for four weeks prior to the study, and then for four weeks with a dog living in the unit full-time. On the night shift there wasn’t a whole lot of difference. During the day, however, they noticed a significant decrease in behavioral problems.
Here’s a video of a dog specifically used to help dementia patients:
In the Western Journal of Nursing Research, there is also an article about a group of researchers who studied the effects of having an aquarium on the nutrition of Alzheimer’s patients (and no they did not eat the fish). They tracked 62 patient’s nutrition daily for two weeks, and then weekly for an additional six weeks.
Right away in the first two weeks, the Alzheimer’s patients increased their nutritional levels. After the study, the patient’s gained and average of 1.65 pounds each. They also required less dietary supplements. That meant their overall health improved as well.
Make Sure You Research Pets for the
Not all elderly people are ready to take on a pet full time. If they have dementia, or other medical problems, you may want to consider having your family take care of the pet. Bring the pet over to see your elderly relative on a regular basis. Don’t leave your loved one alone with the pet for an extended period of time.
Here are some other tips to protect an elderly parent:
- Clean up spills from water or food dishes to avoid falls
- Have the elderly person sit down to give love to a pet. Bending over may be a problem
- Make sure toys and other pet articles are cleaned up from hallways and other high traffic areas
- If your loved one is doing a lot of activity such as cleaning, it may be best to put the pet in a separate room or kennel
- When company comes over, the pet maybe should also go in the kennel until it’s calm and used to the new arrivals
We love the pets we have at A Paradise for Parents. If you would like more tips about pets for the elderly, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our website, call us at 623-295-9890 or email us at Cam@aparadiseforparents.com. And please don’t forget Pammy’s 2nd Chance Rescue Service. They take donations!