For many people with Parkinson’s disease, pets provide both companionship and practical help with daily life.
Service dogs trained to work with people with Parkinson's can help their owners maintain balance while walking, or alert a family member after a fall. They can also be trained to help people with Parkinson's move when experiencing gait freezing or stand up from from a chair or after a fall.
Plus, owning any dog, service or not, automatically writes exercise into an owner's schedule. Research shows that regular exercise helps many people with Parkinson's disease improve symptoms. Running around with a cat also qualifies as exercise (though of course cats are better known as naptime companions!)
In general, studies link pet ownership with reducing signs of depression in people with chronic illnesses and with reducing loneliness in the elderly. In one study, residents of a nursing home felt less lonely after visiting with a dog alone than after visiting with a dog and other residents.
Interested in finding a service dog? Visit the Assistance Dogs International website to find accredited breeders in your area. Then, stay tuned to the Foundation’s social channels for the latest Parkinson’s research updates, educational resources and opportunities to get involved.