Jump to:Page Content
Join the conversation with other caregivers and get information from our home health care experts.
Pets can have a positive effect on the health of their human companions. They provide opportunities for exercise, and studies show that people with pets have reduced levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and they report feeling less lonely .
If you or a loved one has an illness that limits your ability to care for a pet, you can still enjoy the company and health benefits that a companion animal provides.
The easiest way is to “borrow” a friend’s or family member’s pet. You’ll want to approach someone whose pet you know and are comfortable with, and make sure the pet doesn’t get too excited in new surroundings. Consider inviting a neighbor and her dog over for a visit, or offer to pet-sit if you aren’t able to bring a dog or cat into your home.
You could also line up a specially trained therapy dog. VNSNY works with the Good Dog Foundation to bring dogs (and their owners) into patients’ homes. Taren Sterry, Volunteer Manager for VNSNY Hospice, says that the connections between patients and animals can be amazing. “We’ve seen people who have Alzheimer’s speak coherent sentences for the first time in months in the presence of a dog. A patient can come alive in ways that the family hasn’t seen in months, or even years. The smell or feel of a dog can invoke happy memories—we’ve seen moments that are really special."
If you already own a pet but an illness prevents you from caring for it, an agency such as PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) can provide assistance that allows you to keep a beloved companion. PAWS volunteers walk dogs, help to maintain litter boxes, and feed and brush your pet. They can also arrange to pick up pet supplies for people who are homebound or have trouble carrying heavy bags or cans.
Deirdre Nolan is a volunteer with VNSNY. She and her dog, Audrey, aren’t currently working as a team, but Deirdre sees a patient and his dog once a week. “I walk his dog for a half hour and then I spend about an hour with him. This man is 91 years old and isn’t able to get out much, but the volunteers who walk Cleo also spend time with him, and when he takes her out, people will talk with him. She is his connection to the world.”
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.