What to Do About Aging Parents and Their Pets
Many families face decisions about whether or not aging parents should have pets in the home, either beloved pets who are long-time family members or new ones that may provide companionship and mental stimulation. Here are some facts to consider when it comes to what to do about aging parents and their pets:
Benefits for Senior Pet Owners
In many cases, the older an individual becomes the more important their pets become to them. The presence of a pet in the home can be comforting, combating loneliness and providing a source of unconditional love. Having the responsibility of caring for a pet may also contribute to the feeling of being needed and necessary in the world. As a result, spirits are lifted and depression is lessened or avoided. Research shows that the presence of a well-loved pet even helps people cope with major life problems such as the death of a spouse.
Drawbacks for Senior Pet Owners
Unfortunately, caring for a pet can often become burdensome and stressful and, perhaps, even dangerous for both the pet and the owner. For example…
- Small animals can get underfoot and cause an elderly person to trip.
- Large dogs can be hard to control on a leash, leading to falls and injuries.
- Remembering to feed, walk and otherwise care for a pet may be difficult for people whose memories are fading.
- The medical needs of a pet may not be recognized by the owner, causing the health of the pet to be in jeopardy.
- Regularly scheduled visits to the vet may go unattended because of the reluctance or inability of the pet owner to drive.
- Providing adequate pet care can be expensive, stretching the fixed budget of many of the elderly.
- The death of a beloved pet can create or exacerbate feelings of grief, loss and loneliness.
Alternatives That Allow Taking the Pet Away to be the Last Resort
- Create a schedule for nearby family or friends who can take turns walking and feeding the pet and getting it to the vet for periodic check-ups.
- Establish a pet sitting fund for family members who can contribute, allowing a professional to visit on a regular basis to check on the owner and the pet.
- Find a veterinarian who makes house calls.
- Find a non-profit organization that assists with veterinarian bills for the elderly.
How to Help a Loved One Finally Let Go
When the time comes and giving up a pet is inevitable, allow your loved one to participate in the process of finding a new owner. Most people understand the reality of no longer being able to provide proper care for their pet and having a plan to find the much-loved pet a new home is a real source of comfort. Perhaps, visits can even be arranged so that your loved one can still have their pet in their life.