Health Benefits of Pets for
By Holly Klamer
Spending time with a pet has many health benefits for anyone, but they can be particularly helpful for those suffering with dementia or in memory care facilities. The companionship of an animal has not only emotional benefits, but physical and mental ones as well. Whether you opt for a cat, a dog, or another animal, spending time with these sweet, fluffy friends can make a big difference in the lives of a dementia patient. Here are some of the biggest health benefit of pets for dementia sufferers.
Pets Lower Physical Stress Levels
Many studies have shown that having physical contact with a pet can counteract the physical manifestations of stress in your body. Spending time with a pet can lower your blood pressure and reduce tension throughout your body, and because of that, having a pet around can actually lower your chances of developing health problems such as diabetes or heart disease. This is very helpful for dementia patients, because the better physical condition they are in, the better their mental functioning will be as well.
Pets Provide Unconditional Support, Which Can Reduce Depression and Anxiety
Dementia patients are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety than the general population, so it’s important as a caregiver to take steps to reduce their risk for these challenging emotional conditions. Pets are unconditionally loving, and being around them naturally makes us feel relaxed and happy. They also provide a deep form of companionship that reduces feelings of loneliness. This can reduce a dementia patient’s risk for depression and anxiety over time.
Pets Provide a Change in Routine
Many dementia patients struggle with falling into the same routine day in and day out, which can have a negative effect on their mental functioning. Having a pet provides a much needed change to their routine, which brings excitement and joy into their day. Spending time with a pet is something seniors can purely enjoy - it’s time where they’re not in medical treatment and they won’t have to struggle to communicate with others. The company of a pet is simple, unique, and joyful, and it provides a social stimuli that is difficult for dementia patients to get otherwise.
How to Manage Dementia Patients and Pets
It’s important to take special precautions when introducing a pet and a dementia patient to make sure both are happy and have a positive experience. It’s crucial that the pet has a relaxed temperament that won’t upset the dementia patient. Older pets are often ideal for this, because they have less energy than younger ones. It’s also important to be mindful of the dementia patient’s demeanor and keep an eye out for signs that they might be tired or overstimulated. It’s often best to plan these pet visits early in the day when a dementia patient has more energy. It also should go without saying, but dementia patients should never have their own pets - someone else should always be around to help with care.
Visits with pets make dementia patients happy and reduce their risk of other physical and mental illnesses, so it’s worthwhile to look for pet friendly senior living where your senior can enjoy spending time with community pets. The positivity and joy that a pet brings to any situation are hard to replicate, and so an increasing number of senior care facilities are incorporating pets into their care routine. If you are struggling to find a pet friendly place for your senior or are unsure of how to approach the situation, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for advice.