Your loved one’s dog or cat, bird or fish, or any other pet is essential. Not only do they give love and support to your loved one, but they can also provide stability and health benefits, especially to people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Cognitive Benefits To Having A Pet
If your loved ones with dementia have a pet, it’s best to keep them together as long as possible. Numerous health benefits go along with pet ownership.
In the mind of a dementia patient, they seek out stability and comfort as often as possible. A pet can offer unconditional love and support, especially when it’s difficult for another human to provide that comfort.
Because of the different textures of fur and sounds, pets offer incredible sensory stimulation. Your loved one will get the tactile stimulation from petting, having their animal rub up against them, and engaging in play. Additionally, many pets make noise, which can offer stability in a quiet household.
Most people who own pets own them their entire lives. Most have habits of when to feed their animals, clean up after them, or take care of their other needs, such as a walk. This habitual remembering can help stimulate the brain to preserve neural connections. When hungry, most animals will make noise, which can trigger your loved one to repeat a habitual action.
Several studies have shown that petting an animal can help reduce anxiety and depression. There are hundreds of antidotal stories of younger people saved from severe depression and suicide by adopting an animal.
Numerous studies show that pet owners live longer. The number of years varies between a few weeks to as many as 20 years, most of which agree that the average is about seven years.
But that’s not all—actions such as petting a cat or a dog lower blood pressure and stress. Watching an animal sleep, eat, or play has a calming effect on the whole body. Other studies have shown the benefits of having a pet improve heart disease, diabetes, cancer, pain, and other health issues.
The eating habits of the elderly who own pets are much better than those without. Although it is difficult for researchers to figure out why, it is suspected that the person will take better care of themselves because they know they have another life to be responsible for.
Helping A Dementia Patient With Their Pet
Allowing your loved ones to keep their pet is a double-edged sword. Although it provides tremendous amounts of comfort and health benefits, this is another living and breathing being that needs to be taken care of. The cat will need her litter box cleaned out, and the dog will need to go for a walk. Grooming has to be maintained, as does veterinary care.
And unfortunately, that will probably fall to the caregivers eventually.
If your loved one does have a pet, it’s best to sit down as soon as possible to discuss how to care for those pets. Do they need regular grooming? What type of food do they take? Where are the vaccination and license records?
Having this information easily accessible you can reduce the stress if anything does happen. It also helps you establish a routine for taking care of the animals when your loved ones are no longer able to.
Two of the primary concerns are feeding schedule and cleanliness.
Someone was dementia might forget to feed their animal or forget they already fed them and repeatedly serve them lunch or dinner. One missed meal can irritate, but several can cause serious health problems.
You should establish a feeding schedule and carefully monitor the amount of food being served. If there a concern, you may need to take over the feeding schedule.
The same is true with cleanliness. A dog needs taken out often or trained to a potty pad. A cat’s litter box needs cleaning out regularly. Other animals require other routine care. Early on, monitoring the situation and letting your loved one take care of it is the best option. But, if not done, you will need to take over those duties.
Water is a much more serious issue. Access to fresh, clean water needs to be daily, and a toilet is not the answer.
Your loved ones can rely on their beloved pets, and that pet can provide a tremendous amount of mental and physical benefits to a person living with dementia. However, you need to balance that benefit with the needs of an individual living, breathing creature. Caring for your loved one’s pets is as important as caring for them.