When health declines, so does the environment surrounding the ailing individual. Home maintenance, social interactions, and the care of beloved pets become more difficult for those with mobility or cognitive issues. While the initial reaction may be to abandon or remove tasks and responsibilities, soon the thought of how the sudden abandonment affects the ailing individual in a negative way comes to mind.
Benefits to Pet Ownership
It's easy to think about the positive aspects of caring for a pet. Things like companionship, warmth, and duty help all of us feel a sense of purpose throughout each and every day. However, there are some enlightening benefits that have been made known through clinical research that play a specific role in increasing the quality of life for the aging adult, such as:
Considering Nursing Facility Placement
When your loved one's health is declining, one of the first daunting thoughts that comes to mind is "do I need to place him/her in a nursing facility?" Often times this is not the case, as a fall or illness is an indication of someone simply needing help, not terminal placement in a facility. When the elderly individual considers their placement in a facility, one of the first thoughts that they may have is "what will happen to my pet?"
While federal housing laws allow for pet ownership in publicly-run nursing facilities, the stipulations easily make that option an impossibility for most. By making it so that the elderly patient must be able to care for the pet (a very subjective criteria), as well as mandating that the pet is adequately trained and socialized (according to whom?), the likelihood that a new resident will be able to keep that pet is very slim.
A better solution for many reasons is to provide help in the home to make certain aspects of pet ownership easier. Having help to set up the items needed for ease of care means setting the elderly individual up for success. Placing pet care items and equipment in areas that are easily accessed decreases the risk of falls and sprains. Reducing bulky food bags to smaller, pourable containers makes the aging adult feel happy that he/she is still the provider for their beloved companion.
Pets are a blessing, especially to the elderly. By providing help in the home, whether by yourself or with a service, you ensure that the bond between pet and person is lasting and fulfilling.
Simply a few hours a day or week can have dramatic impact on the feasibility of an ailing person to do what they wish to do - stay in their own home.
Melva Sherwood, RN