We are a nation of dog-lovers and cat fans: turning to our four-legged friends for support, joy and stress-relief.
People living with dementia can enjoy these benefits of keeping a pet. But, as with any pet owner, there are considerations to make before deciding whether getting – or keeping – a pet is right for someone who has received a diagnosis of dementia.
What are the benefits of having a pet for a person living with dementia?
Animals make great companions that offer unconditional love and attention. Pets can help those with dementia to stay calm and feel relaxed, as the act of petting or stroking an animal can bring peace and comfort.
People with dementia may also be motivated to get up and move about more with their furry friends. Spending short periods of time playing with pets or getting outside and going on walks can go a long way to keeping active when living with dementia.
What if keeping a pet is not practical for a person living with dementia?
Sadly, it is not always the best decision to get or keep a pet if a person living with dementia is no longer capable of looking after them or if their pet becomes a source of annoyance or stress for the owner.
It’s important therefore to be mindful of the wants and needs of both the owner and the pet and make informed decisions that are best for everyone involved.
In the scenario where a previously loved pet absolutely cannot stay in the home, speak to RSPCA about appropriately rehoming your pet. There are still options available to enjoy the company of pets: Pets As Therapy and Therapy Dogs Nationwide are national charities that conduct pet visits around the UK.
Alternatively, if it’s too complicated bringing an animal into the house, people with dementia can get many benefits from teddies and soft toys that are similar to a pet, and which they can cuddle and pet as if it was their own: even sourcing toys that emulate an animal’s breathing. It’s not uncommon that when cuddling a soft puppy or kitten toy can help to calm them and reduce agitation.
Join the conversation: our community of Empowered Conversations carers and people living with dementia share their experiences on our Facebook Page and by attending our courses. To find out about upcoming courses near you, click here.