Power Behind the Paw

777902d50702d1aed62537f0670485c8The peace behind the paw is a growing trend for aging seniors. More and more nursing homes and assisted living facilities welcome pet therapy into their complexes.

Psychological research has proven pet therapy significantly lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety and increases fingertip temperatures in seniors – a clear sign of stress relief.

The gentle unconditional love of a pet makes a difference. Simply touching the soft fur of a cat or scrubbing the ears of docile dog draws a deep emotional response. Nursing home staffs find the presence of a dog in family gathering rooms stimulates a smile and opens responses to those who have been withdrawn or depressed.

Humans need interaction and for many of our elderly, the feelings of brokenness and lack of attention lessen their quality of life. Pets revive that inner desire to love and be loved.

Despite the obvious benefits of pets there are also issues to be considered before bringing a pet into an aging parent’s home. Every year thousands of pets are sent to shelters, turned out onto the street or euthanized because well-meaning friends and family felt their parents needed companionship.

Before a pet is introduced into a senior’s home, ask yourself these questions:

Is my parent physically able to care for a pet? Can they continually make trips outside to walk a dog? Are they stable enough to use a leash for their dog without worry of being dragged down?

Does my parent enjoy pets? Many folks love to visit with a pet but have no desire to own one. It’s important to respect that desire.

Are there allergies or fears of pets?

Is my parent’s home/apartment or room a suitable place for a pet? Is there a place to walk a dog or are parents able to bend well enough to clean a litter box? These are important things to consider.

If these issues can be addressed appropriately, introducing a pet into an aging parent’s life is advisable. Many seniors will grasp hold of a pet’s comfort and companionship in their presence.

Pets have been known to sense disease, heart attacks and seizures in their owners long before they occur and many are recognized as service animals, helping their owners with daily living skills such as opening doors, moving or retrieving objects and assisting in guidance.

If a pet is something your family sees as a benefit to your aging parent, discuss the matter first. Never surprise a senior with a pet they may not want. Decide the type of animal and the ability of your senior to manage the care. Perhaps a cat is best or a bird – maybe a young, docile dog.

Most veterinarians recommend a young dog who has been trained over a rambunctious puppy and a cat that is mild mannered and loveable over a playful kitten. Use wisdom and common sense when making a decision of pet choices.

Weigh the pros and cons of adding a pet into the life of a senior and should it fit, you will find a wonderful change in your senior.

For more information on Pet Therapy visit your local veterinarian, humane society or http://www.powerofpaws.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.morgefile.com & CJMulloy

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