Recently in the news there were many stories about dogs coming from Korea who were saved from being used as food. Americans were shocked with the thought of their favorite pets being served in restaurants. We look at our dogs (and cats) as members of our families.
Senior citizens are moving out of their homes and into assisted living homes that will not allow the seniors to have pets.
This is unfortunate since research has shown that seniors feel their pets give them the feelings of being useful, and belonging to someone. As we grow older its important to know we are loved, or that someone cares about us. Pets, especially dogs and cats, fulfill this need. Sons and daughters love their senior parents, but they cannot be there all the time as a pet can.
Studies have shown that petting a dog or cat can help lower a pulse rate, and that stress levels immediately drop. The American Journal of Critical Care reported that “pets provide benefits including lowered blood pressure, less pain, more happiness and motivation to get better” In addition researchers have found that older people show improved alertness when caring for pets. Pets are not only beneficial for their owners, but also help all who come in contact with them. Nursing homes have documented a decrease in “Sundown Syndrome”, a common event that occurs in the evening for many people with Alzheimer’s. Many mental health therapists have therapy dogs in their practice.
Dogs especially encourage us to get more exercise as they need walks and while walking, dog owners become more sociable. It is hard to resist talking to a dog when they walk past you on the street. Where I live we laugh that we know the dogs by name but not their owners.
Unfortunately pets can be expensive but some states now have agencies to help. The Connecticut Humane Society assists needy seniorwith veterinary medical care and food. There are agencies in Farmington, Windsor, and Milford that have pet food banks to help people keep their pets.
Staff at the San Diego Humane Society’s Pet-Assisted Therapy Program have noticed how even the most profoundly affected patients have displayed improved appetite, more social interaction, and tactile and cognitive stimulation after interaction to pets.
Who knew that a four legged best friend could be so helpful?
Ruth B. Carr can be reached at Behavior Options Hypnosis in Hamden. 203-915-0480
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