By Moreika Johnson, Mother Nature Network
Q: My mother lives alone and is getting up in age. I donít know if she will be able to keep caring for her black Labrador and, unfortunately, Iím allergic to dogs. What do I do if she can no longer care for them?
A: When my great aunt became bedridden in her late 80s, I would visit every now and then, accompanied by my dog Lulu. Since my aunt spent most of her life on a farm, surrounded by cows, chickens and a motley crew of mutts, visits from my hyper pooch provided a welcome diversion from game shows on TV. Lulu often sat at my auntís feet, keeping them warm as we chatted about the weather, neighbors who had passed away and the latest technology ó including email.
Lulu kept silent vigil over my aunt as she slept, long after I had sneaked off to read a book or grab a bite to eat. When I stirred her to leave, my aunt would ask about our next visit. The need for companionship doesnít dwindle with age, and thanks to their unconditional love and companionship, pets can help on this front and improve health in other ways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention credits pets with decreasing blood pressure and loneliness while increasing opportunities to socialize and exercise. WebMD also notes new research from Miami University in Ohio and St. Louis University that indicates pet owners are more physically fit and less fearful of hurdles in everyday life. When it comes to aging, I can use all the help I can get.
But my dog serves as a healthy reminder that the benefits of pet ownership come at a cost. Our furry friends still need food, veterinary care and regular exercise. Fortunately, pet lovers have options to help preserve that relationship well into the golden years.