It’s National Pet Month, and while the health benefits of pets have been long established, we would like to take a few minutes to recognize the importance of companion pets in assisted living and how TRULY beneficial it is.
In addition to all the well-known health benefits that pets provide to all of us (lowered blood pressure, lower stress levels, lower cholesterol, etc.) pets can also provide companionship and a sense of purpose at a time of life that can often be lonely. Pets provide unconditional love, companionship, and nonverbal communication, which, for many seniors, can be just what the doctor ordered.
While walking a dog provides good cardiovascular exercise, it can also be a bridge to socializing with others. A dog isn’t just man’s best friend, he can also be man’s best wingman. Try walking a friendly, good-looking dog in any well-populated area and you’ll have people wanting to pet your dog and other dogs wanting to introduce themselves to your dog. It’s a great icebreaker for talking to other people in your community, especially other dog owners, and can help alleviate some of the feelings of isolation that come with getting older.
Assisted living facilities that allow animals have noticed how beneficial they can be with new residents, who are often especially withdrawn and uncommunicative. Sometimes a resident’s first significant interaction in the facility is with an animal, and that opens a pathway to talking with other residents and staff.
Taking care of a pet can also provide seniors with a sense of worth and boost their self-esteem. At a time when many people start to feel like they’re no longer contributing anything to the world, a pet can help reduce those feelings by assuring seniors they are needed and loved.
Pet therapy has also been proven to be especially useful in helping seniors deal with “Sundowner’s Syndrome,” a condition in which those with Alzheimer’s suffer periods of increased confusion and agitation in the evenings. Animals can help soothe patients during these tough times with their non-verbal communication and unconditional acceptance of the patients. For some seniors, it can even serve as a reminder of a pet they had when they were growing up, which can help to calm them.
As vital as pets can be to those living in assisted living facilities, buildings that allow their residents to have pets need to be careful that the needs of both the patient and the pet are being met. If the patient is forgetful and doesn’t always remember to feed or walk their pet, they may need help from the assisted living facility staff. After all, seniors tend to move to an assisted living facility because they need help with certain day-to-day tasks of living and taking care of themselves. While the fact that they need help taking care of themselves does not necessarily mean they can’t take care of an animal, it might mean it would be a good idea for the staff to keep an eye on the animal and make sure they are not being neglected. In order to avoid this problem, some assisted living facilities might choose to keep pets in the building that are in the charge of the staff, but that are available to spend time with all residents.
Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.
CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.