As we age and the people in our lives begin to move away or pass, the loss of companionship and interaction with others can be a very real problem. Situations and friendships dissolving over time is a natural cycle of life, as nothing is permanent and change is ever-present. The loss of loved ones due to illness or geographical distance can cause a sense of loneliness and depression for us as we get older. It has always been said that a dog is a man’s best friend, and truer words have not be spoken when we age and have dog as a companion. Of course, it is not only dogs that can provide such companionship, cats, birds and a host of other animals can also serve as great companions.
Research studies tend to suggest that pets can benefit our health
Many research studies have been done regarding how pet ownership or living with a pet can benefit our health. Measuring the impact of human and animal interaction is difficult and problematic for researchers, so there are very few definitive conclusions that have been reached through these studies. The results of many studies do tend to suggest that having a pet can help with heart health and reducing depression or loneliness. One study suggested that pet ownership is an important source of much needed social support. This social support enhances a person’s well-being and alleviates loneliness. Another study found that those who have a pet had fewer doctor visits.
A growing trend in physical and mental therapy is the use of therapy dogs to help those patients suffering from depression, high blood pressure, and other conditions. Research suggests that animals have a healing effect on certain mental conditions in patients, such as decreasing stress and anxiety in post-traumatic stress disorder patients, decreasing loneliness and feelings of isolation in elderly patients and increasing self-esteem and spirit. The increase in self-esteem enables patients in physical therapy to be more involved in group activities.
The benefits of pet interaction also manifest in lowered blood pressure, a decrease in heart rates, an increase in endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, hormones which are associated with good health and a feeling of well-being. Hospitals and nursing homes have begun to use therapy animals much more in the past few years, and report a very positive impact on their patients’ quality of life.
For most of your life one or both of your parents was there to help you with anything from learning to drive, moving into the dorm room, doing yard work at your first home, and babysitting your children so you could have an evening alone with your spouse. All of these things were done, not out of obligation, but out of unconditional love and desire to make your life easier.
You’ve spent your life wondering how you could repay them for all they have done and now, decades later, is the time when your help is needed to keep them safe and healthy.
In a society where millions of elders fall victim to elder abuse every year, it is important to do everything you can to keep your elderly parent safe, particularly if he or she moves into a nursing home facility.
The Next Stage in Life: Nursing Home
When a parent becomes elderly, there are many tough and delicate decisions to be made. One of the most common and challenging decisions is choosing the right nursing home. Depending on the level of care that is required for your parent, there are several options, making the decision even more difficult. It’s a big task, but it’s up to you to select (or help your parent choose) a nursing home that will keep them safe, happy, and healthy well into their final years.
- Discuss Early: Ideally, when your parent reaches a point that he or she can no longer live alone or without assistance, there is already a plan set in place. Some aging adults choose a facility or share their plan with a trusted one long before they need to move. Unfortunately, many elders don’t have a say in where they move to or are unable to make a concise decision.
If you are able, initiate a discussion with your parents. They may not want to talk about it, but let them know you want to do the right thing when the time comes.
- Research and Explore: When it comes to nursing home facilities there are several options. The best thing you can do is ask friends and family about any experiences they may have, read reviews about places, and visit several facilities before making a solid decision about which nursing home may be the best.
- Pay Attention to Detail: When you take a tour of a nursing home facility, you will most likely be taking the standard, looks-like-the-brochure guided tour. That’s not to say that the tour is deceptive in anyway, but you may want to visit a couple of times to get a real feel for the place. In addition to having more than one visit, ask lots of questions, make a nursing home checklist, keep track of the answers, and pay close attention to the way that residents are treated, how they look, and their general demeanor.
- Any Red Flags?: In addition to observing residents, take note of the facility itself. Is it clean? In good condition? Does it seem safe? If the place seems dangerous or if the residents exhibit signs of elder abuse, this facility should be taken off of your list of options and reported to an adult protective services agency.
When choosing a nursing home facility for your elderly parent, don’t rush to make any decisions. This move requires careful consideration as the safety and overall well-being of your parent could be at stake.