Enjoying the Health Benefits of Pet Ownership
Our Operations Manager, Jeannine, drives the most popular member of our management team to work each day. Jake is a big, black goldendoodle: half golden retriever, half poodle, and all heart. He makes the rounds of all our homes. He attends to each resident.
A whistle from Bill, and Jake quietly sits for his morning pet. A word from Toni, and Jake is at her side, guarding the patio from chipmunks. He can start a somber household laughing by patrolling the yard for squirrels. He senses when someone isn’t feeling well and quietly stands watch at the bedside.
Jake has all the time in the world to visit. He listens quietly, head on lap, with a soulful look. He offers no unwelcome advice or criticism.
A Valentine Who Feels the Love
Our residents form deep, comforting attachments to Jake. Studies show that “pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners.”1 People with pets are happier. They feel closer to the other people in their lives. Pets are like a salve, soothing feelings of isolation and rejection.
A chat with Jake gives Mom a reason to stay alert and engaged. People who stop to pet Jake interact with her, too. She feels connected – valued – cherished.
Studies confirm the powerful health benefits of pets – of stroking them and looking into their eyes:2
- Increased oxytocin levels.
- Decreased pain and stress levels.
- Calmness and a desire to make social connections.
A comforting relationship with a pet is especially beneficial for someone living with the confusion of dementia. No one is better at helping you to forget your worries and to live in the moment.
A Valentine Who’s Good for Your Heart
Worried about Dad’s heart health? The American Heart Association believes that owning a pet, particularly a dog, can reduce his risk of heart disease by keeping him more active.3
Pets like Jake can alert us to changes in our loved ones’ health, too: a drop in blood sugar levels, an approaching seizure.4
The best health benefits of pet ownership? The smiles. Scientists will tell you it’s all about dopamine and serotonin.5 Deep down, without the chemistry, we all know everyone feels better with a smile.
So find a way for Mom to connect with a pet. Do it in a way that’s fair to the pet.
If Mom can’t care for herself, don’t expect her to take care of a dog. Don’t expect her caregivers to provide professional canine care, either.
Be creative and flexible.
- Can you bring YOUR pet along on visits?
- Can Mom form a bond with a shared pet, like Jake?
- Can you arrange visits by volunteers with therapy pets?[/su_column]
A Valentine for Caregivers
When you help Mom or Dad connect, you share in the health benefits of pet ownership.
And in the smiles.
For Valentine’s Day, we’re bringing caregivers everywhere a smile. We’ve filled a Pinterest board with pictures to bring you a twinkle, a grin or an outright guffaw. Visit “A Flower and a Smile for My Valentine” when you need a lift.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
1 McConnell, Allen R., and Christina M. Brown. “Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101.No. 6 (2011): 1239-252. American Psychological Association. Web. 9 Feb. 2015. http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-101-6-1239.pdf
2 Olmert, Meg Daley. “”DOG GOOD”” Web log post. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 5 May 2010. Web. 09 Feb. 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/made-each-other/201005/dog-good
3 “Owning a Pet May Protect You from Heart Disease.” American Heart Association. 03 Feb. 2014. Web. 09 Feb. 2015. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Owning-a-Pet-May-Protect-You-from-Heart-Disease_UCM_453586_Article.jsp
4 Hyman, Mark, MD. “Vitamin P: The Secret to Health and Longevity.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 June 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/pets-stress_b_3077521.html
5 Wenk, Gary L., Ph.D. “Addicted to Smiling.” Web log post. Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 27 Dec. 2011. Web. 09 Feb. 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-food/201112/addicted-smiling