How Animals Can Benefit Seniors Facing Dementia

It’s quite surprising how much the visit of a family pet can help a senior who has dementia. Animal-assisted therapy is something that is on the rise in the healthcare world as people begin to realize the health benefits of having animals around. Owning a pet or regularly being around animals can be a great benefit to seniors, especially those facing dementia.

Keeping them company

First and foremost, having a pet or seeing an animal regularly can provide a senior with a sense of company that they may not get from anywhere else. Getting old can be incredibly lonely and it can be a very confusing and difficult time if you are also battling with dementia.

A pet can become a senior’s best friend and can provide them with comfort and company when they need it the most. Of course, their dementia may prevent them from owning a pet of their own but that doesn’t mean that family members can’t share their animals with their elderly relatives.

If they are in a care facility, then they may be able to have a community pet that is kept by everyone who lives there. If a care-home will allow someone to have a pet then it is important to make sure that the animal has a good temperament and is not likely to cause any difficulties or stress to both their owner or the other people in the care home.

Health benefits

Having pets around is a sure-fire way to lift the atmosphere in a room. Animals, especially household pets are very loving and it has been proven that stroking a dog or petting a cat releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is a hormone that makes us feel happy. There is also some research to suggest that stroking a dog or a cat can help lower our blood pressure.

This can be especially comforting to someone from dementia who may struggle to stay focused and may often feel very confused or sad. An animal is also going to offer a person unconditional love and is never going to become frustrated or upset with them. They can bring a lot of joy into an older person’s life.

It is also been proven that interacting with an animal as much as possible may help a person’s brain, and be hugely beneficial to someone who is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Keeping active

A lot of people who suffer from an illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s are likely to spend a lot of their time indoors. A lot of elderly people struggle to find the motivation to get out of the house but having a pet or an animal around can provide you with that reason.

Walking a dog or even just going outside to watch a cat play can keep a person mobile and keep their heart healthy. It can also be a nice opportunity for family members to take a walk with them and spend some quality time together.

Being outdoors can also provide a lot of sensory stimulation. The signing of the birds, the smell of the flowers and the feeling of grass beneath the feet can help stimulate the senses and may help people recall old or lost memories.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs have long been used to help people with certain illnesses and now there are dogs who are specifically trained to help people suffering from illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

These dogs are often taught things like behavior interruption and are trained to help lift the mood of their owner. They may also be able to alert people if their owner takes a fall or is in need of any assistance. Depending on how well trained the dog is, they may also be able to help get medicine and perform other simple tasks for their owners. It should be noted that the training for this can often take some time and be expensive, though, many believe it to be a worthwhile investment.

Social opportunities

A lot of people with dementia may struggle to find things to talk to their visitors about, especially if they are being visited by younger family members like their grandchildren.

Having a pet around provides older people with a conversation topic, especially if it is some sort of community-based pet. Animals can be an excellent way to bring people together and can be especially effective when it comes to uniting the young and old. Children are always fascinated by animals and it can be a great way of building bonds.

Consistency

One of the huge benefits of having an animal around a person who has dementia is that the animal may provide them with a sense of consistency.

As a person’s dementia gets worse, they may struggle to recognize people’s faces, this doesn’t happen with an animal as their appearance never changes. This can provide a great sense of comfort to a dementia sufferer and can also help their brain recognize other things as well.

Dementia is a cruel disease that often robs people of some of their most cherished memories. Bringing a family pet along may help somebody recapture some of those memories and make them feel happier.

As a family member of someone who has dementia, you can regularly schedule meetings with your loved one so that they can see the animal regularly. If possible, you should provide them with a suitable phone for seniors so that you can contact them regularly and allow them to stay in touch with both you and the animal.

A sense of purpose

If a person is suffering from dementia, they are likely to be struggling with feelings of confusion and are likely to feel as though they are lacking a purpose.

Having a pet or a family animal around them regularly that they can help to take care of may help provide them with a sense of purpose. Seeing a pet every couple of days and getting to play with them, feed them or clean them can give someone a nice sense of purpose and help them feel as they are giving something back. It is also important to assess whether or not a person needs help or supervision in completing these tasks.

As a family member of someone who has dementia, you can regularly schedule meetings with your loved one so that they can see the animal regularly. If possible, you should provide them with a suitable phone for seniors so that you can contact them regularly and allow them to stay in touch with both you and the animal.

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