Guest Post: Feeling the Stress of Isolation? So are Sheltered Pets….
Guest Post by: Carolina Gerard
Can You Open Your Heart and Home?
There is some good news during this COVID-19 pandemic: Dog, cat and even hen adoptions have soared. Riverside County Animal Services in Southern California found homes for all of its animals.
While millions adapt to working from home, social distancing, and self-isolation, they seek out new pets to keep themselves company. In Minnesota, animal shelters promoted adoptions in anticipation of temporary closure. By the time the shelters closed, people adopted more than 300 animals, leaving only a few. Similar pet adoption booms occurred when animal shelters in New York, Arizona and California made adoption appeals, reported the Washington Post.
Even hens have found homes recently, as people look for backyard pets that will also provide eggs in uncertain times. While some animal shelters may be closed, many no-kill or local rescue organizations remain open or are offering adoption visits by appointment.
Considering adopting/fostering an additional pet during COVID-19? This guide will help you decide.
Studies have shown that bonding with a pet can be physically and mentally beneficial; just 15 minutes creates a chemical chain reaction in the brain, lowering levels of the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol, and increasing production of the feel-good hormone serotonin. These results are especially beneficial for seniors who see heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels immediately drop. Over the long term, pet and human interactions can lower cholesterol levels, fight depression and may even help protect against heart disease and stroke.
Think you are too old to adopt/foster another pet?
There are numerous reasons for adopting a pet. From companionship to security, pets can provide seniors a better quality of live and improve aging in place. benefits can be far-reaching. Seniors are feeling the stress, isolation and uncertainty of COVID-19 more than any age group. While there are many tools to help keep seniors from feeling isolated like Medic Alert Family Programs or Facebook Groups pets can be a constant source of companionship and indeed, distraction.
Baby boomers only represent about 37 percent of all pet owners but shelters are trying to change that. Many allow seniors to adopt pets at a reduced cost, and some also have “seniors for seniors” programs that specialize in matching older animals with older humans. One such program exists at Helping Paws Animal Shelter in Woodstock, Illinois, which states:
“Our Senior to Senior adoption program is all about senior citizens rediscovering the joys of having a cat or dog in their lives. The program helps place senior cats and dogs, who are 7 years of age and older, with senior citizens who are 65 years of age or older. The adoption fee is waived for any approved senior citizen adopting a senior pet.”8
Pets for Seniors in Illinois created an adoption program that matches senior dogs and senior cats with senior citizens. They worked out solutions to the issues that seniors have with pet adoption, and the program is successful.
Those who work caring for the elderly say that pets pull withdrawn seniors out of their shell, provide mild activity and cardio through walking and grooming the pet, and offer a way to feel needed and connect with the world. Pet therapy can also help with Alzheimer’s Sundowners Syndrome.
Pet therapy has shown to improve appetite, social interaction, brain stimulation, and tactile activity. The unconditional love of a dog brings healing and meaning to life.
You know yourself better than anyone, so be honest about whether fostering or adopting a pet is a good idea. Create a pros and cons list. Assess your mobility and select a pet that fits your lifestyle a puppy may not work for you but a senior pet or a cat would appreciate sharing your home, your life and your love.
As long as your health, finances and living situation allow it, the benefits of pet ownership tend to far outweigh the cons, including if you’re older. It’s worth noting that some senior centers and retirement communities are also acknowledging this and allow residents to move in with pets.
If you’d love to have a pet in your life but feel the commitment of pet ownership may be overwhelming, keep in mind that there are options for this as well, such as fostering an animal, visiting with a therapy animal or volunteering to walk a neighbor’s dog or help out at an animal shelter. If you love animals, spending time in their presence, even temporarily, is likely to offer many of the same benefits of pet ownership without as much responsibility — and this is something you can take advantage of at any age.
Owning a pet while aging in place is certainly not for everyone. Ask your veterinarian, family members, and doctor if this is the right decision for you and your health. If you are healthy enough or your caregiver is willing enough to care for a pet, the rewards of pet ownership can be life-changing. An aging dog, cat, or even bird could be the best medicine and your best friend, all in one.