(photo credit: Tallulah Floyd)
Newswise — A spoonful of medicine goes down a lot easier if there is a dog or
cat around. Having pets is helpful for women living with HIV/AIDS and managing
their chronic illness, according to a new study from the Frances Payne Bolton
School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
“We think this
finding about pets can apply to women managing other chronic illnesses,” said
Allison R. Webel, instructor of nursing and lead author of the article, “The
Relationship Between Social Roles and Self-Management Behavior in Women Living
with HIV/AIDS,” which appears in the online journal Women’s Health
Webel set out to better understand
how women manage their HIV/AIDS and stay on track to take their medications,
follow doctors’ orders and live healthy lifestyles. She conducted 12 focus
groups with 48 women to find out what they did to stay healthy. The women had an
average age of 42, about 90 percent had children, and more than half were
During the focus groups, six predominant social roles emerged
that helped and hindered these women in managing their illness: pet owner,
mother/grandmother, faith believer, advocate, stigmatized patient, and employee.
All roles had a positive impact except stigmatized patient, which prevented
women from revealing their illness and seeking out appropriate
“Much information is available about the impact of work and
family roles, but little is known about other social roles that women assume,”
Being a pet owner was an important surprise, added Webel, who
collaborated with co-author Patricia Higgins, a professor of nursing at Case
Western Reserve University.
“Pets—primarily dogs—gave these women a sense
of support and pleasure,” Webel said.
When discussing the effect their
pets have on their lives, the women weighed in. “She’s going to be right there
when I’m hurting,” a cat owner said. Another said: “Dogs know when you’re in a
bad mood…she knows that I’m sick, and everywhere I go, she goes. She wants to
The human and animal bond in healing and therapy is being
recognized, Webel said, as more animals are visiting nursing homes to connect to
people with dementia or hospitals to visit children with long hospital
Being a pet owner is just one social aspect of these women’s
lives. “We found the social context in which this self-management happens is
important,” Webel said.
Another strong role to emerge was advocate.
Participants wanted to give back and help stop others from engaging in
activities that might make them sick, the researchers report.
as mothers and workers are well documented, “less-defined social roles also have
a positive impact on self-management of their chronic illness,” Webel said.This article was first published at www.newswise.com