Service dogs are known for helping people with disabilities that often occur as individuals age. Common conditions include blindness, impaired hearing, diabetes, and limited mobility. Having a service dog can also help fight feelings of isolation and depression which often affect seniors. 

Service dogs for elderly care are greatly beneficial, but owners must make some considerations in choosing and keeping service animals. This article will discuss various factors so you are well-prepared for ownership. 

Benefits of Service Dogs for Seniors

The benefits of service dogs for seniors are substantial because they can be trained to perform a variety of tasks. For example, they can:

  • Lead the blind to ensure safety
  • Pull a wheelchair
  • Provide medication reminders
  • Open doors
  • Provide pressure therapy
  • Alert others when their handler is experiencing a health emergency
  • Prevent self-harm when their handler is having a seizure
  • Pick up dropped items for handlers with mobility issues. 

Seniors with service dogs will see a considerable improvement in their quality of life as follows: 

  • Improves Mental Health: Service dogs benefit a senior’s mental health. They help people with dementia by reminding them to take their medications and ensuring they follow a daily routine. They also provide companionship that reduces feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation and increases self-esteem. 
  • Improves Physical Health: Seniors must walk their service dogs. The activity increases muscle and bone strength, balance, circulation, and cardiovascular health. 

Types of Service Dogs for the Elderly

Service dogs can be trained to perform various tasks. Seniors must choose the type of dog best suited to their medical needs. Their choices include: 

  • Guide Dogs: Guide dogs help people with vision loss navigate various environments. 
  • Seizure Response: Service dogs may detect when their handler is about to have a seizure. They can also seek help if a seizure occurs. 
  • Hearing or Signal Dog: A hearing or signal dog will alert its owner if it hears an important sound like a doorbell or fire alarm. 
  • Sensory Signal or Social Signal Dog (SSigDOG): An SSigDOG is a common companion for autistic people. It will alert its handler when they engage in distracting, forceful activities encouraging the person to calm down. It also alerts handlers of sensory signals and provides emotional support. 
  • Psychiatric Service Dog: A psychiatric service dog will detect the onset of a psychiatric episode and help their handler deal with their emotions. This can include providing medication reminders, and keeping handlers safe when and if they become disoriented. 

Considerations for Seniors Getting a Service Dog

The decision to get service dogs for elderly care must be thought out in advance. Here are some considerations involved. 

  • Physical Abilities: The senior must consider their physical abilities to ensure their dog has the training to help them deal with their medical condition. 
  • Lifestyle: The handler is responsible for their dog’s upkeep. They must be able to care for their dog or have a friend or relative who is willing to help. 
  • Financial Aspects: Service dogs generally cost $15,000 – $30,000 to attain and an additional $150 to $250 per hour to train. Handlers must also consider food, veterinary care, supplies like a dog leash for elderly owners, and more. Insurance will not cover these expenses. This can make costs especially extensive for seniors on limited incomes. 
  • Long-Term Care for the Dog: Seniors must face the reality that their dog could outlive them. They must think about who will care for the dog if something happens to them.

Challenges and Solutions

There are many benefits of service dogs, but there are also several challenges involved. Here are some obstacles you may face on your handler journey, along with possible solutions. 

  • Expenses: Service dogs can be expensive, but there are ways to make them more affordable. For example, personal and home equity loans can provide funding for care. Fundraising is another option. Some non-profits help individuals with special needs obtain service dogs. 
  • Extensive Care: Caring for a service dog is difficult. Not every senior is up to the task. If you are not equipped to care for your service dog, consider asking a friend, relative, or caretaker for help. 
  • Educating Yourself and Others: Due to a lack of education about service dogs, many people don’t understand what they do, and which rules pertain to them. For example, some may tell handlers their dogs are not permitted in public places. Others may try to pet the dog thereby distracting them from their responsibilities. Handlers must be prepared for varying attitudes and educate others so people adopt the right etiquette around the dog. 

Justice Speaks Makes Life with a Service Dog Easier

Service dogs for elderly care provide several benefits including preventing medical emergencies, increasing mobility, and improving physical and mental health. Many seniors would not be as well off without them. 

Some challenges may arise, and Justice Speaks makes life with a service dog easier by providing training to increase awareness of service dogs’ roles. We educate society so they appropriately respond to service dogs regardless of whether their handlers are visibly disabled. 

We are doing our part to educate service dog owners and people who interact with service dogs. Contact us to learn more about what we have to offer. 

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