There's no doubt that, for some, a dog can be the best possible companion in the world. Protective of their "humans" and wonderful for alleviating stress, a dog can be a huge benefit to a senior - or annoying and costly. If you're a senior or the primary caregiver of an aging parent or loved one, you may be wondering whether a dog would be a good addition to your family. What are the benefits and drawbacks?
Benefits of Dog Ownership for Seniors
Unfortunately, many seniors face isolation and loneliness as they age. While a dog certainly doesn't replace human interaction and companionship, there are many advantages to owning a dog. Dogs are fiercely loyal and have proven to be great partners for anyone, regardless of age. Studies have proven those who have pets, and particularly dogs, experience less stress and anxiety, are happier, and even healthier. Seniors who have a dog typically are less susceptible to high blood pressure and depression - and they get more exercise by playing with Fido or taking him for a daily walk. Caring for a dog (feeding, nurturing, taking him to the vet or to the groomer's) also makes those who are aging feel needed, giving them a purpose in life.
What are the drawbacks?
It seems there couldn't possibly be a downside to owning a cuddly dog who adores you, but there are a few drawbacks. It's important to consider the cost of food, medical care, and the fact that the senior and/or caregiver will be responsible for feeding, watering, and exercising a pet. A puppy may not be the best idea, given many have boundless energy and want to play for a good part of the day. A mature dog is a better choice for most seniors, although certain physical or mental conditions may make dog ownership more of a hassle than a pleasure.
Those who have certain physical limitations may not be able to handle caring for, or interacting with, a dog. It's important to consider age-related medical conditions before getting a dog, and how the situation may evolve in the future. Additionally, it's also important to give some thought to a caregiver who devotes a substantial amount of time caring for a senior. Does he or she have the time and energy to properly care for an aging parent and take on the responsibility of giving a dog the attention necessary to ensure he or she doesn't resort to destruction or misbehavior? Like people, dogs need a certain amount of your time and attention. If left unattended or ignored, dogs can become stressed out, which can result in bad behavior.
No family is like another, and the needs of seniors and their caregivers vary tremendously. A dog could be a huge benefit and a loving, caring companion for your aging loved one depending on the situation and the senior's health, or it could be a huge burden on the caregiver. This is a decision that requires plenty of thought, and weighing both the benefits and drawbacks.
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