Many seniors who live alone, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, may experience a sense of isolation while being separated from their loved ones. Even though friends and relatives are staying away out of concern for the health risks associated with the spread of the virus, without contact with the outside world, that sense of isolation can manifest into a feeling of being abandoned.
Loneliness can have a negative effect on a person’s mental and physical health. But, older adults and those Medicare recipients with serious health issues do not need to spend their days alone when there is a rewarding companionship avenue available. Adopting a pet is not only beneficial for housebound individuals, but it is also good for the pets by the giving and getting of happiness and by improving the quality of life for both parties.
Because puppies require a lot of attention that seniors and those with mobility issues may not be able to handle, veterinarians recommend adopting a mature, calmer pet. Mature animals require less maintenance and are eager to share their lives with their owners who will appreciate becoming the center of their furry, forever world. Look at the following two lists to see the variety of low maintenance companion pets and the health benefits of adopting a pet.
Popular Pets to Adopt
• Dogs: Select a grown dog that is healthy, has a quiet personality, likes being around people, has all of its shots, enjoys short daily walks, and does not require a lot of professional grooming. It would be wonderful if the dog is already trained to do its business outdoors.
• Cats: Cats are wonderful pets for people with mobility problems because they do not need to go for daily walks, they like to be indoors, they use litter boxes, and enjoy being held and petted. Cats are loyal pets and like to snuggle up to their owners and lay in their laps. Be sure the selected cat has all of its shots.
• Birds: Small feathered parrots and parakeets are great pet companions. They live in cages but can be trained to sit on a person’s shoulder or the back of chairs. They are self-sufficient with their daily grooming and when talked to they provide calming chirping sounds.
• Rabbits: Rabbits are safer to adopt from an animal shelter. They are soft and cuddly and can even be trained to use a litter box.
• Fish: Tropical fish that do not require extensive pH balance levels provide hours of calming relaxation. This is especially useful for anyone with anxiety problems. Seniors may need help from a caregiver or another person living in the house when it is time to clean the tank or add more water. Always ask about maintenance care before getting fish.
Health Benefits Associated with Pet Adoption
Many studies have been done on the positive health benefits associated with pet adoption by seniors. Some of the medical organizations conducting these studies including the Mayo Clinic, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Heart Association. Medicare recipients who are concerned about their mental and physical health can check their benefit plans to see what services are covered and they need to discuss their issues with their medical care providers. Here is a list of potential health benefits associated with pet adoptions.
• Lower Stress and Anxiety: Having a pet can have a calming effect which helps to lower blood pressure. Caring for a pet means looking after their comfort and happiness which can reduce the amount of time seniors spend worrying about their own aches and pains.
• Physical Improvement: Going for short walks with a dog will become a daily routine that can improve your mental outlook, help restore muscle tone and increase mobility. Caring for any pet also requires daily feeding, cleaning litter boxes for cats and rabbits, and the pleasure of holding and petting which can help improve arm movements.
• Companionship with a Purpose: In addition to having a constant companion which reduces the sense of loneliness, a pet adds a reason for caring. The pet will bond with its owner and trust that they will be cared for and loved. The owners will come out of their self-concerned shell and look forward to being needed as they care for their pets.
• Social Interaction: Walking a dog gets seniors outside where they frequently meet, stop, and chat with neighbors and friends. During the pandemic, it is important to wear a mask when going outside and maintaining appropriate social distancing while remaining involved with others. If the senior has a caregiver, they can enjoy these daily strolls together.
• Safety and Security: Having a constant companion in the home increases the senior’s sense of security and being safe. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety. If the pet is a dog, strangers are less likely to try to invade the home when they hear all the barking.
If you want to open your house and your heart to a friendly, loving, affectionate pet, but aren’t sure what pet will be the best for you, talk to a veterinarian, or an animal shelter worker, or your personal physician before making a final decision. It is also beneficial to discuss your plans to add this new member to your household with your caregiver and any other person living in your home who may have to help with the care of your pet.