Health benefits of pets to caregiver and care receiver

March 22, 2008 by  
Filed under Archives, News

If I had not had my 4 border collies with me most of the time I was caregiving, I would be in worse shape than I am now. Even though many times, I only saw them to feed them and play ball once a day while caring for my aunt, they provided me with a sense of relief. They obviously needed me to feed them but then all they wanted to do was give love to me. Even when my youngest ate a hat or chewed the seat belts because of being left alone, it was a relief to laugh and forgive because I felt that it was my fault for leaving them alone. Yet, I knew they would rather see me briefly 2 or 3 times a day than stay in the kennel. My aunt loved seeing them through the window trying to come in and sometimes I would let them in to visit. She was an animal lover but her late husband did not allow animals in the house so she did not get the manx cat that she had wanted. My dogs and my cousin’s St. Bernard that slept in the house when she was there definitely perked my aunt up. Both my cousin and I needed our dogs to mediate the stress and frustration that surrounded us as we lovingly, with all of our heart, cared for my aunt.

My aunt got well enough to be on her own for about 3 weeks. She was frustrated and felt as though we were watching her like hawks. I decided that to bring some dignity into her life that we had to let her be on her own relative to the previous 4 months. We had been with her 24/7. We were now only going to check on her and let her drive when she felt strong enough. But I was worried about her being lonely. She had lost her husband just 2 weeks after the unexpected death of her husband. So one of my cousins and I searched for a manx kitten to keep her company. We knew my aunt would be mad because her prognosis was still unknown. But we also knew the kitten would keep her mind on something other than her illness. Squeeaky was way more kitten than we all expected. She definitely kept my aunt on her toes and gave her something to talk to us all about when we would check on her via phone or visit. I remember within a week of my leaving Washington after Squeeaky became the primary caregiver, my cousin called to say that when she visited my aunt laughed out loud for the first time in 9 months. Was I concerned that my aunt could not take on the responsibility of caring for the cat? Yes, so I bought an automatic litter cleaner, a circulating waterer, enough cat food for months, and I knew my cousin had to visit every day to change my aunt’s bandages. We believed that the benefits of having Squeeaky as a caregiver certainly outweighed the problems associated with the partnership.

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