Pets a Prescription for Health, Happiness Among Elders

As UCLA researchers went about gathering data on how care and services should be delivered to California’s poor and elderly, they stumbled upon an unexpected finding: for some, pets play a key role in keeping them healthy and happy. That was not something researchers went looking for, asserted Kathryn Kietzman, a research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and Project Director of the data gathering research called The HOME (Helping Older-Adults Maintain Independence) Project. They discovered it while investigating how the state could develop and sustain a network of care that would allow low-income elderly people to remain safely in their own homes. Actually, the therapeutic effects of pets have been well documented, and there’s a growing body of scientific research on this. Studies published in the early 1980s found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t; that petting one’s own dog could reduce blood pressure; that interacting with pets could increase people’s level of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin. The HOME study, funded by The SCAN Foundation, followed 54 low-income, elderly Californians with long-term care needs over a period of four years. The study participants, who are enrolled in both Medi-Cal (California’s name for Medicaid) and Medicare, lived in five of the eight counties where the state is launching its so-called dual-demonstration program, Cal MediConnect, which hopes to deliver care in a coordinated seamless fashion to low-income elders. Health care and social service professionals need to assess the individual needs and preferences of older adults, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

Source/more: New America Media

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