Pets as Part of Eldercare


Pet Therapy, eldercare, senior care, caregivingIf you provide eldercare for one or more parents, you might want to consider adding a pet to your caregiving routine. Pets have long been recognized as having special qualities that can help people with a range of challenges, especially those requiring senior care. Pets have been shown to lift mood among the depressed, stimulate conversation among the isolated, spark long-term memories among those with Alzheimer's, and improve range of motion among those with arthritis or other physical problems.

Pet therapy was officially recognized over 40 years ago, but people have been using pets as part of a senior care routine informally for generations. Most senior care settings use volunteers who bring their pets to visit as a supplement to eldercare.

In an article by Laura Meade Kirk in The Providence Journal, Dr. Chris Hannifan, president of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association, said that the benefits of the relationship between humans and pets have been proven. In the case of senior care, pets are sometimes the only ones who can get through to an older person who is otherwise noncommunicative.

I can attest to the benefits of pets in eldercare. When my grandma was in the late stages of Alzheimer's, she stopped communicating with people, both verbally and physically. But the last time I saw her, I witnessed a beautiful thing - our dog made her smile. We decided to bring Emmett to the senior care facility where Grandma was staying. Even though she did not respond to us or anyone else involved in her eldercare, her eyes brightened when Emmett greeted her. After months of being nonverbal, she actually said out loud that Emmett was cute, and we all left the senior care facility feeling a sense of peace.

If you don't already have a pet that's part of your eldercare routine, be sure to think carefully about what kind of pet will best enhance your parent's senior care. Dogs are popular choices, but cats and birds can bring enjoyment as well. Talk to an eldercare professional experienced in pet therapy about the best choice for your family.

Do you have a pet that is part of your caregiving routine? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our RSS Feed to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on
--Carrie L. Hill,  Ph.D


3 Responses

  1. My husband's grandfather and grandmother have a german shepherd, adult and trained one. Grandfather has dementia started and sometimes forgets the way home when walking. He always walks with his dog, so the dog brings him back home. Grandmother which is still ok cries all the time seeing this kind of care.
  2. admin
    What a wonderful, wonderful tale of love and loyalty, Julia.
  3. Yes, this is maybe the most exciting story. Another story - is that one friend of my husband's father, which is about 70now, has no fingers on his feet (because of operation), so this friend has a dog - Labrador, a very funny and friendly. He lives alone and has to walk with his dog by himself and slowly slowly he starts walking. Before he was scared and refused to get out of his bad. Now it is much better.

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