The U.S. Center for Disease Control says that there are over 86,000 people who end up in the hospital emergency room because of falls directly related to dogs and cats. They go on to say the falls involving pets result in fractured bones that are devastating to the elderly.
But there are many reports that claim that when the elderly have a pet it reduces loneliness, depression and provided much needed companionship. But even psychologists are split on the risks and benefits. Harold Herzog, professor of psychology at Western Carolina University says, “If we were giving a drug that had such a serious side effect, we’d consider taking that drug off the market,” He claims the stress and maintenance of a pet is detrimental to the well-being of the elderly and the risks far outweigh the rewards.
Reports from nursing homes, dementia studies and social psychology studies repeat the benefits; greater self-esteem, less fear, less agitation, less depression, fewer doctor visits, more exercise, fewer heart attacks, meeting new people, creating a healthy routine, and eating better and healthier.
But the opposing studies claim that depression is accelerated when the elderly can no longer care for the pet or the pet passes away. Having to take the pet outside several times a day and cleaning up after accidents add stress to the elderly. Some simply cannot clean up after their pets and descend into unhealthy living conditions for the person and the pet. Many elderly cannot afford a vet and the pet is put in jeopardy. Pets can be a financial burden for many elderly.
It is clear playing with a pet regularly is beneficial but caring full time for a pet has its benefits and risks. Much of that depends on the ability of the caretaker to be actively engaged with that care.
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