Pets can boost the level of the feel-good hormone serotonin which raises the mood level of a person. All of these things are great for seniors with dementia.
Dementia has many symptoms such as apathy, restlessness, depression, irritability, and changes in mood. Seniors who have dementia also withdraw from social settings possibly causing the person to neglect eating and/or personal hygiene.
Some benefits of pet-owning for dementia patients:
Pets can be excellent companions for people with dementia. It can be a dog, a cat, a fish aquarium, or even a bird but the benefits are many. It helps seniors with dementia to have unconditional love and become more involved socially. Some benefits of pets for people with dementia are:
- More physical activity: If the senior owns a dog or cat, it will get them more involved in physical activity. Dogs need to be walked, and both need to be played with and petted. These are soothing activities that most dementia patients enjoy.
- An outlet for communication: Many times, a person with dementia will have difficulty communicating what their needs and wants are. The struggle leads to frustration and the person not wanting to attempt connection at all. With a pet, the communication is on a deeper level, and those with dementia can appreciate, enjoy and understand that.
- Supplies enjoyment: Pets supply happiness to seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s because they provide lots of distraction and relieve boredom. Contact with pets breaks up a daily routine and brings joy to the life of the person.
- A sense of purpose: Because a pet can’t take care of itself, people receive a sense of meaning that otherwise would not be present. Owning a pet will give the senior a reason to get up in the morning. When being greeted by a wagging tail or a gentle purr, the person’s day is brightened before it has even started. It is not possible to be depressed or frustrated when they have a pet wanting attention first thing. It gives the person a routine, and they know they have a responsibility to the pet.
- Reminiscing: Old memories can surface of pets the person once owned and loved. A pet can bring feelings of happiness, joy, and even playfulness and help ground a person with dementia to the present.
To keep in mind:
If keeping a pet isn’t possible for a loved one with dementia, other alternatives are to contact an organization that specializes in pet therapy for seniors. The organization will bring a trained therapy dog to your doorstep for your loved one to enjoy but not the worry of owning a pet.
Whether a senior owns a pet or an organization brings a therapy animal for some one on one, it can help to brighten a person’s life who has dementia.