Caregivers and their Loved ones Make a Connection with Local Furry Friends

Posted on 11/26/19 by Briana Harper

Whether a dog, cat, rabbit or bird, pets can bring happiness and joy to our lives. Numerous studies show the positive physical and emotional benefits of pets. According to a 2019 survey by the National Poll on Healthy Aging, 72 percent of older adults say pets help them cope with physical or emotional challenges they face in their lives. Caregiving is one of those situations that adds new dimensions to one’s emotional and physical health journeys.

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Earlier this month, the Edwards Elder Law organized the Caregiver’s Holiday Paws Pause that blended the concepts of pet therapy with an event especially for caregivers, their loved ones and pets in need of a forever home. The furry visitors - brought in by SPCA Tampa Bay - included kittens, bunnies, and a dog named Stan.

“We really feel like that human-animal bond brings so much joy to our lives,” said Carolyn Wisniewski, chief development officer at SPCA Tampa Bay. “When you look into the eyes of that pet and you know that all that excitement and affection is just for you - that’s what we call ‘humanimality’.”

While adopting a pet for some caregivers in attendance was not feasible, many attended to get their dose of puppy love.

“There’s something very comforting about dogs and pets. It’s relaxing and it helps you meet other people when you’re walking them,” said Kathy Runde, an event attendee. “We came here to see the animals and pet little Stan because we need our little cuddles.”

Pets not only bring us joy, they also bring other benefits to caregivers and their loved ones.

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“We know the value pets bring to caregivers and their family members from living more active lives to pets helping people combat social isolation,” said Michelle Cyr, AARP Tampa Bay associate state director for outreach and advocacy. “These benefits are the reasons we like to work with local organizations that host unique events like these.”

The inherent responsibilities of pet ownership also brings a sense of purpose through manageable pet-care tasks for seniors suffering from age related health issues.

“The husband who’s sitting in the recliner - the dog is not going to let him sit in the recliner all day. He still has a job and he still has something he’s good at doing,” said Dr. Cate McCarty, a local dementia coach.

AARP Tampa Bay is a supporter of the St. PAWS initiative, which aims to make the city of St. Petersburg a pet-friendly place to live.

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