The UK is a nation of animal lovers. In fact, according to the PDSA, over 50% of adults own a pet, with cats and dogs the most popular choices by far. As most pet owners will tell you, animals can bring a huge amount of joy into the home. Helping to relieve stress and boost our fitness levels, pets can make a great addition to any household.
For people living with dementia, animals can be even more important. Helping to improve both physical and mental wellbeing, and provide much-needed companionship, a pet can dramatically transform the life of someone living with the disease. Keep reading to find out more.
Regular exercise has been shown to help improve the symptoms of dementia and even to slow the progress of the disease. Having a pet that forces you to get out and about can therefore be a great way to ensure your loved one gets plenty of exercise and fresh air.
Dogs are probably the best choice of pet for those who want to increase the amount of exercise they get. Most dogs need between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise a day, although younger dogs and more active breeds will benefit from being taken out more often.
As well as helping to reduce blood pressure, obesity and other weight-related conditions, this regular exercise can help to boost endorphins and help dementia sufferers to feel stronger and more energetic.
Another major benefit of owning a pet is the companionship they bring. This can help to ease loneliness and help to reduce anxiety, stress and depression.
Having pets in the house has been shown to help people stay calm and relaxed and also gives pet owners something to talk about with their friends, family and carers. Dogs and cats are both great for companionship. Alternatively, you could opt for a hamster, rabbit or even a bird.
Having an animal in the house gives pet owners a real sense of purpose. They have something that depends on them and they have to get up every morning and look after their pet. Having a sense of purpose is great for someone with dementia and can help to slow the progression of the disease.
Although pets can significantly boost a dementia sufferer’s quality of life, the reality of the disease means that not everyone will be able to keep a pet at home. If you care for someone with the condition, you’ll need to assess their needs and capabilities before deciding whether or not to bring an animal into the home.
Think about how lucid your loved one is on a day to day basis and how aware they are of other people and animals in the space. It’s also important to think about how physically capable your loved one is. If they have a dog, they’ll need to be able to take it out for regular walks and bend down to give the dog food and water.
Having a pet can bring a person with dementia a huge amount of joy and benefit them both physically and mentally. To find out more about living with dementia, and the help and support available, explore The Dementia Network site where you will find lots of practical information and a forum where you can chat with others on a similar journey.