Pets and the Elderly

The emotional benefits of having a pet are well established, especially for older people. Research shows that pets can help people cope with major life problems, such as the death of a spouse. Pets can also help relieve stress and lift one's spirits by providing much-needed social support. Bottom line: if an elderly person is a pet lover, pets can be good for their health. And, it doesn't matter whether the pet is a dog, cat, fish, bird, or even a chameleon.

But, what happens when an elderly person can no longer properly care for their pet? Do they have to give it up? Or, are there resources that can help them care for their pet?

You can find pet care services in the Yellow Pages under Pet Sitters. Many, if not most, provide daily dog walks, in-home cat care, pet taxi service to and from vets, as well as plant and home care for vacationers. If more frequent walks are desired, that can usually be arranged because pet sitters charge by visit. But, whomever you select, make sure they are bonded and insured (and licensed if that is required where you live). For most pet sitters, it doesn't matter if the elderly person lives in their own home, or in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

You can also find pet sitters online at the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. They have a search/locator in the upper left section of their home page directly beneath their logo.

For more information about the positive aspects of pets, check out:

"Animals Are Good For Your Health" - Just 10 minutes of physical interaction with a beloved pet can lower blood pressure; by Mara M. Baun, D.N.Sc., F.A.A.N. and Nancy J. Dapper, M.P.A. Newsweek. October 15, 2001.

"The Healthy Pleasure of Their Company: Companion Animals and Human Health" - by Karen Allen, School of Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo.

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