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Pets Instrumental To Holistic Health, Healing, Independence for Seniors, Advocates Say (Part Two)

Its founding sponsors are the American Pet Products Association, Petco and Zoetis, also known as the one-time animal health business of Pfizer pharmaceutical company.

To support its mission, vision and different facets of work, HABRI has created four work groups, including the Communication and Education Work Group, the Government Affairs Work Group, the Research Work Group and the Support Work Group.

Serving on its steering committees are the American Humane Association, Bayer, Central Garden and Pet, Hartz, Hill’s, Morris Animal Foundation, Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc., PetSafe, PetSmart, Purina, Segrest Farms, Sergeant’s and WellPet. HABRI’s association supporters are Pet Industry Distributors Association, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and its leader-corporation is the Bramton Company.
McGill said that Banfield has performed much work for seniors and their pets and found success with human hospice care facilities.

“[There are] many stories of people in hospice,” she said, referring to tales on the Banfield’s website at http://www.banfieldcharitabletrust.org “The number of people who asked what would happen to their pets [after they died was high].”

Moreover, McGill said, the American Pet Products Association released a 2012 APPA National Pet Owners survey, after a year of investigating and interviewing individuals with animals at home and various medical care or services settings.

About 1,054 respondents of elderly persons aged 65 and older were surveyed to discuss the health benefits of owning a pet and were followed for a year. In the study, owners sang the praises of their pets.
“[The] owners report a special bond with their pets,” she said. “[They spoke of] companionship, love and friendship.”

The APPA survey revealed that about 59 percent of respondents felt that pet ownership was good for their health and relaxation with 40 percent stating that they could not keep their dogs because they could not afford them. It also included the testimonies of five widows who lost their husbands and who talked about their pet ownership.
“Dogs were a focus of conversation,” McGill said. “[They were a] buffer [against] the sense of isolation. [The respondents were] socializing [with people other than their family members], [were] widowed or [had] no contact with families.”

About 64 percent of respondents were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and had pets. Researchers noted that pet dogs were assigned to both elderly men and women.

She added that elderly pet owners reported shorter stays in hospitals, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and medical specialty clinics to treat their illnesses when living with their pets and experienced lower average medical costs than those without pets.

“Dogs provided substitute comfort because they were a shared part of the relationship,” McGill said about the replies to the survey from respondents who lost spouses. “Dogs provided a safe place to grieve and total acceptance. Dogs provided qualities of a best friend as [they seemed to] listen [and to] comprehend [their owners’ loss].”

According to pet research, about 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. Of this figure, half of the households owned dogs while the other half owned cats. Dogs lived in 46.3 million American homes while cats were in 38.9 million homes.

Cats were the choice for many seniors, research showed. “[It’s because of] the ease of care,” McGill said. “They can go longer without food [than dogs]. [To address different problems germane to aging such as reduced falling or tripping risk, greater chances for physical exercise, more physical protection or more suitability for treatment of chronic illnesses, seniors tend to get] large breed dogs or personalized dogs.”

She added that much of the same applied for the seniors Banfield serves. The foundation assists seniors to age in place with their pets by covering basic annual expenses for dogs and cats, surgical and routine veterinarian services, pet food, treats and vitamins.

Banfield provides financial assistance and resources for at least 1,540 dogs and 1,217 cats per year. Overall foundation expenses for pets increased from $173 million in 1994 to $53 billion in 2012. Pet food, veterinarian services, medicine and supplies accounted for $45 billion in foundation costs on average overtime.

McGill said most of the seniors served have no pet insurance. Different types of pet assistance programs under Banfield address the needs of the elderly, whether situational and involving physical mobility or medical illness or financial.

Once again, Banfield’s Pet Peace of Mind program helps hospice patients keep the pets through their end of life. Out in the field, she said Banfield delivered three nonprofit hospice programs with assistance with medical care, cost of food and pet care.

The foundation provides placement for pets after the death of their owners. It also provides boarding or foster care assistance if the elderly patient is hospitalized. If seniors in post-surgical or palliative or hospice care want help in getting pets adopted after death, the foundation can help, McGill said.

Banfield partners with various agencies and nonprofits to deliver its programs, she added. The foundation works with the National Veterinary Assistance Programs, the Pet Fund, Red Poverty, In Memory of Magic and the Mosby Foundation. National programs such as PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support) and SNAP (Spay Neuter Assistance Program) abound nationwide.

McGill said oftentimes the shelters offer the best cost for service. The foundation deals with vaccine clinics for the elderly. One health organization provides mobile veterinary and other pet care service for dogs and cats owned by public services with financial restraints.

Continued: Part Three

Vladimire Herard, M.S. (99 Posts)

A print journalist for 21 years, Vladimire Herard freelanced for the National Senior Living Providers Network, (nslpn.com), the Guidance Channel and Longtermcare.com. Under CD Publications, Ms. Herard wrote about senior health, substance abuse prevention, and elderly housing. Under Inside Washington Publishers, she covered health care financing for Inside HCFA and food and product safety issues for FDAWeek. Ms. Herard also covered education, crime, and county affairs for daily newspapers such as the Chicago Defender. She currently covers senior long-term care, the pharmaceutical industry and issues and education. Ms. Herard resides in Chicago.


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