Whilst it used to be nearly impossible to find an aged care organisation that would allow people to move in if they owned a pet, the Times are changing. Today there are many organisation that invite people to live with their pets, and even some that have a full time ‘dog on duty’. While we’re only just beginning to understand how dogs are helping those in Aged Care there’s no denying the improvements people experience when there’s a dog in their life.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
A larger percentage of the older population struggles with cardiovascular problems, particularly high blood pressure and heart disease. Most doctors prescribe medications and a specialised diet to help decrease the health risks connected to high blood pressure. Having a dog also helps.
Melbourne’s Baker Medical Research Institute conducted a 3-year study that explored the connection between owning a pet and how it affected the pet owner’s cardiovascular health. The study included 5,742 participants, 784 of whom owned least one pet. Participating researchers made note of:
- Blood pressure level
- Cholesterol levels
When they announced their findings, the researchers revealed that the pet owners consistently showed healthier levels of cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and triglyceride. One of the interesting things the research revealed was that although the pet owners were generally more active than the non-pet owners, they also indulged in take-out food and alcohol more frequently, indicating that their dogs and cats did an even better job of keeping them healthy than previously anticipated.
A study conducted by the American Heart Association showed that in a sample group of 5,200 adults, the ones that owned at least one dog were 54% more likely to walk at least once a day, which helped keep their heart health.
Improved Emotional Health
Dog owners have long insisted that their dog is good for their emotional health, but science is just now starting to prove these claims. Never have so many dogs been trained to help people deal with issues such as anxiety and various forms of depression as today. Not only does a dog help people cope with fear and depression, but they also provide their human with a sense of connection that they’re not always able to find with other people. Many feel that it’s this sense of connection that leads to improvements in the dog owner’s physical well-being, including a lowering of their blood pressure.
Assistance with Alzheimer’s
It’s becoming increasingly common to walk into an aged care facility that deals with people that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia and find one or more dogs on the facility. The reason is because science indicates that the dogs are an important part of the treatment process.
At this point, no one fully understand why people suffering from Alzhiemers have such a positive reaction to dogs and other animals. What is known is that when the animal enters the person’s life, even if it’s just for a few moments, the individual exhibits an increase in interactive behaviour. Some centres report that after spending time with a dog or cat, people have an increased appetite.
Some programs have trained Alzheimer’s support dogs that help people navigate the facility and perform basic functions they weren’t able to manage on their own prior to being paired with a canine companion.
Unexpected Benefits Connected to Owning a Dog
One of the interesting things that carers report is how much better the dog owner in their group performed physical activities compared to the those who didn’t have access to a dog. The carers noticed that the people who enjoyed a dog’s love could do things such as prepare their own meals, bathe themselves, dress themselves, and move more freely than the non-dog owners.
If it isn’t possible for your loved ones to have a dog of their own, arranging for your own dog to visit them a few times a week or helping them move into an assisted care facility that has a staff dog, has the potential to improve the quality of their life and even extend their remaining years.