Pets can help to stabilise our blood pressure, reduce stress and feelings of loneliness, and even improve our overall physical and emotional wellbeing. This page will help you learn more on how pet therapy can help those living with dementia.
Stage of dementia – The first thing that must be considered is the current stage of dementia. An individual in the early stages of illness is typically more capable of taking care of a pet than someone in a later stage or who has had dementia for years. A recent article by Unforgettable states, “if [the dementia is] still quite early on, they will probably be able to continue as normal.” Analyse your individual situation and determine how severe the symptoms are.
Type of pet – The type of pet will also play a role in this decision. The easier it is to take care of an animal, the more likely it will be that the pet can remain at home. Hamsters, dogs, and cats are great examples of pets that have provided love and care for people with dementia. Pug, Schnauzer, Cocker Spaniel, Chihuahua and Boston Terrier are just a few of the best dog breeds for those living with dementia
Work and effort – The amount of work and effort required to take care of the pet is also important to keep in mind. “if it’s a well-loved cat or calm dog that is low-maintenance and doesn’t require much more than plenty of love and cuddles, then it could be more helpful to keep the pet rather than cause the trauma of removing the pet,” Unforgettable reports. Examine the circumstances you are in and how easy or difficult it is to provide for your animal. No one knows them better than you do.
Is the pet wanted? – One question that must be asked, however, is whether or not the owner wants to keep the pet. While there are many benefits to having them around, every case is different. Sometimes an animal can be a source of annoyance or stress for a person with dementia, depending on all of the above factors. Be mindful of the wants and needs of both the owner and the pet, and make informed decisions that are best for everyone involved.
In these cases when a person with dementia does not want to take care of a pet themselves or is no longer capable of doing so, consider if a family or friend is willing to accept the responsibility. If an adored bunny or loving kitten can remain nearby and come for visits, it can still be extremely beneficial.
Another article regarding the effect of pet visits on Alzheimer’s patients by Ann Napoletan states, “While companionship is an obvious benefit, a well-timed pet visit may also help with anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon to watch someone transition from emotionless to joyful when a pet enters the room, especially if it triggers pleasant memories.”
Some helpful tips to remember when taking a pet for a visit:
If you have to say good-bye
If the pet absolutely cannot be kept, consider visits from other animals. This is a great way to still receive the positive effects of an animal visit and keep the memory of a pet close at heart. Here are a couple companies that offer pet therapy services and the benefits they can provide.
There are many positive effects that owning or visiting with a pet can have on people with dementia. Below are listed several examples of ways that pets have improved behaviour and health.
Pets provide love, laughter, and light to the lives of people everyday. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with dementia, remain informed and evaluate your personal situation before you give up these wonderful members of your family. And if you must say good-bye, remember that there are other ways to incorporate animal interactions into your life.
Learn more or find out how we can assist with dementia care at home for you or your loved one today.