It’s no secret that pets are important to us, as humans. We put deep emotional stock in the health and happiness of dogs, cats, fish and birds, even more so in many cases than the people around us. We train them as therapy animals, put them on display, and give them names, something we usually only do with our children.
And they are especially important in the lives of people dealing with dementia. Pets give people suffering this condition a sense of comfort and community, the responsibility of taking care of something, and something to stave off loneliness.
All of which makes the passing of a pet especially traumatic for someone suffering from dementia. Let’s take a closer look at why, and how you can react in this kind of situation.
Pet Ownership and Dementia
Pets are a fairly common form of therapy for dementia patients struggling with the confusion of their condition. Taking care of a cat or dog helps people of any age to feel productive and needed, engaging with something living that also offers them companionship. It’s a very real and measurably successful way to motivate someone to take better care of themselves and, ultimately, just to feel loved.
Moreover, pets give dementia patients something they desperately crave: a sense of routine. When your memory fails you and everything around you seems alien, having a dog or a cat you regularly see and interact with can act as an anchor to reality. Patients have reported feeling calmer and more collected, with their pet being the focal point of their day.
Pet ownership helps many work through the rigors of their dementia. When a pet dies, it is fairly common to feel like they “have nobody”, even when extended family or caregivers are available to help. It may also trigger a profound understanding that their own health is failing, and that they will eventually pass away as well.
The sense of loss can be huge, and it’s important to know how to approach a loved one during this trying time. When you have to face the realities of the loss of an animal in your loved one’s life, it’s important to make yourself emotionally available. Keep in mind, your loved one might not be able to afford or plan for the various things that come up. Cremation. Examinations. Disposal. These costs can add up, and they may not want to ask for your help, even though they need it.
Offer to accompany them on their visits to the vet, in order to help them navigate any issues that may come up. Also, take some time out to talk about their animal’s life. This is not only kind, but will help to cement the death in their minds. As dementia affects their memory, they may become confused about whether the animal passed away or not, and this work will help them keep the facts straight.
Lastly, if they seem ready, you might also approach your loved one about adopting a new pet. Gauge their readiness for this, give them some time, and ask them when the time seems right. They may be sad now, but a pet still makes for an effective companion, and the benefits won’t change from pet to pet.
Help Your Loved Ones Deal With Pet Loss
Pets are important to us. Not just to the elderly or the sick, but to us as people. We attach emotions to our dogs, cats, reptiles and otherwise, using them to build our families and forming memories around our time with them.
This attachment is even more important to people dealing with the effects of dementia on their memory and lives, overall. So, when these pets pass away, their loss can have a huge impact on their owners.
It’s important to know how to respond to someone with dementia when their pet passes. It also helps to have someone with the experience to help them through this on-hand, so you aren’t left grasping at straws.
If you are interested in expert in-home care services from a leader in the industry, visit Granny Nannies today and find out how we can help you and your loved one with their daily living.