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Cat or dog might be "purr-fect' holiday gift for seniors, says Matrix Home Care psychologist

WEST PALM BEACH (December, 2009) - When choosing a holiday gift for an older relative, consider a warm and fuzzy dog or a cat. A pet can provide companionship, open the door to neighborhood conversations and even improve a senior's physical health, according to Matrix Home Care psychologist Alexander Fiuza, PhD, as director of client services for Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

"A dog or cat can be the 'purr-fect' gift for a senior," said Dr. Fiuza. "A pet offers a feeling of love and connection, which is very important to someone who is living alone or lacks companionship." Taking care of a pet can also change an elderly person's lifestyle, opening the door to new daily activities, such as taking a dog for a walk or playing hide-and-seek with a cat. "Petting a cat or playing with a dog relaxes a human, as well as a pet," added Dr. Fiuza. "By helping to relieve those internal stresses, a pet can improve the quality of life for an elderly person."

Studies of nursing home residents found that seniors who were around pets smiled more often and were more alert than those who did not come into contact with animals. Holly Bedgio, RN, Matrix' director of clinical operations/risk management agrees with those findings. "I gave a small dog to her mother, who is living in an assisted-care facility," said Bedgio. "I could see a real improvement in my mom's attitude toward life."

Dr. Fiuza notes clinical research studies show that having a pet also can provide physical health benefits for the owner, such as lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol levels. A three-year study of 5,741 people in Australia found that pet owners had lower blood pressure and triglyceride and cholesterol levels than did non-owners. "A pet can be the ideal holiday gift," said Dr. Fiuza, "providing a loved one with companionship for many years."

About Matrix

Based in West Palm Beach, Matrix provides a complete array of services, home health care, disability management so injured employees can quickly return to work, independent senior care based on the needs of the elderly and specialty nurses' services, including wound care, infusion therapy and rehabilitation nursing. Certified as a woman minority owned business, Matrix serves Southwest and Southeast Florida from locations in Tampa, Bradenton, Venice, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach and Coral Gables. For more information, www.matrixhomecare.com.

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