The Benefits of Pets and Alzheimer's Disease

Discover how pets can improve the emotional well-being of those with Alzheimer's Disease. From companionship to reducing anxiety, learn how dogs and cats can make a significant difference.

The Benefits of Pets and Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's Disease and the Benefits of Pets

By Beverly Powell

While on a respite, I took the time to think about the memories of my father in law’s passing and the decisions we made to take in Joyce. I knew that I wanted to do it, but, I knew that she herself had once held high cleanliness standards and had plenty of ideas on pets in her home.

In the past, she had had a few dogs here and there and a very large fish. Her pets were long passed and I let my insecurities and doubts take over for a brief time. I was terrified that she’d be both uncomfortable and disdained by the two tabby cats, Popcorn and Peekaboo and the two dogs, Daphne and Minnie living inside our home. The dogs loved the attention. Minnie, a husky/wolf with brilliant blue eyes was used to strangers coming in and being in awe of her beauty while Daphne, my terrier was used to people coming in wanting to play with such a cute, rambunctious dog. The cats kept to themselves I had no doubts that she would have a problem with them.

The fateful day came that we would bring her to our new home. We walked inside and she was greeted by my adorable terrier. I held my breath. Joyce looked down and suddenly smiled. She spoke clearly to Daphne! She loved her! Ok. The first barrier was broken. Then, she sits in the very chair we brought from her house and Minnie walks meekly up to her and holds her head down as if she wanted to be petted. Again, Joyce talked clearly and coherently. Finally, the ice had been broken.

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Over the next few days, the cats met her with purrs and smiles. Joyce took to them immediately. I was relieved. The animals had made a home for her and when she was not there, they missed her. If Joyce went to the adult center or a doctor’s appointment, the dogs waited by her chair until she’d come home. The cats would greet her when she walked up outside. It was clear that she accepted and loved them as much as they did her.

Now, we have since adopted another cat and she talks to it more than she talks to them more than she talks to the rest of us. When the nurse comes out to check on her, as long as the dogs are close by her, she responds to the nurses’ questions while keeping a strong steady heart beat. They seem to give her strength and peace of mind.

All of my fears and insecurities have taken a long walk far away as I have watched the dogs keep her from being anxious or agitated and the cats distracting her from anything that my cause her any harm. The pets have helped me keep her occupied as she enters a new phase in this terrible disease. They give me hope that I can do a job that I doubt I could ever consider. They make her smile when nothing else will. These last stages where she talks very little, sleeps very much and eats even less, she smiles more and laughs a little lighter.

I have now come to the conclusion that pets are not a cure for this disease but they are a cure for the emotional turmoil of it. Dogs are incredibly compassionate with both young and old. But especially with those with Alzheimer's Disease. And cats are a soothing comfort during the storms both outside and in.

The Health Benefits of Pets and Dementia

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Meet Beverley Powell

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