By Bob Kohut
If you have recently joined the rapidly expanding “sandwich” generation – where you are responsible for the care of both your children and your parents – we have an idea for you. It’s a simple idea which you might find preposterous at first. Here it is:
- Get Mom or Dad a Do
If you’re hyper-ventilating at the thought of having to take care of a dog in addition to taking care of mom and dad, take a deep breath; calm down; and let’s talk about the major benefits of this seemingly crazy notion. Here’s the first, and we think the most important:
- It Gives Them a Reason to Get out of Bed in the Morning
One of the toughest things about growing old is the loss of purpose. This can be especially painful for people who have lived a life dedicated to the care of others. The nest has long been emptied and the older people like this get the harder it is to find a meaningful purpose to their lives.
If your life’s meaning came from the joys and sorrows of being busy giving of yourself to others, what’s left when there are no others to take care of? For some seniors, the end result is days on end with no purpose; no reason to get out of bed each morning.
A dog can fill that void. Depending on their own physical condition, Mom or Dad can assume full or partial responsibility for the care of that dog. If you know anything at all about the bonds that develop between dogs and their humans, you’ll know the right dog will give Mom or Dad the reason they need – something to take care of.
You can find “senior” dogs at local shelters or on http://www.petfinder.com that are temperamentally suited for older adults. Get Mom or Dad involved in not only the selection of the dog, but in every aspect of the care of the dog. Let them research and select the right dog food and veterinarian.
Take them with you to shop for doggie needs and to the vet. Let them brush the dog and bathe it if their physical condition allows. If your own children don’t have the time to help walk the dog, get Mom and Dad involved in finding a neighborhood child who can
Okay, if adding purpose to your parent’s remaining years doesn’t convince you, here’s another reason:
- Dogs Improve the Health of Seniors
The Internet is full of examples of the health benefits of dog ownership. Check it out for yourself and you’ll find multiple references to some study that was done with Medicare patients that apparently found that dog owners visit doctors less than non dog owners.
Studies of adults of all ages seem to tell us that dog ownership lowers blood pressure. Seniors with dogs experience less depression. The health benefits of walking the dog should be obvious. Many seniors who have no desire to take a walk on their own are delighted to walk their own dogs.
Finally, some study of nursing homes that allow therapy dogs and extensive dog involvement in the resident’s daily lives showed significant a drop in daily medication costs.
If you’re still not convinced, there’s one more thing we want you to do. Call a local Nursing Home or Assisted Living Center that has a pet therapy program. Ask them if you can drop by when the dogs are there visiting the residents.
Go there and watch the residents as they pet the dogs. Watch the dogs as they lick and nuzzle the hands of these elderly folk. Then look at the smiles on the faces of the seniors and look right into their eyes.
Now go get the dog.