Many seniors have pets in the home and when seniors need extra care this can include pet care as well. While this may present a challenge to the caregiver, pets and pet therapy offer many important benefits to seniors.
Planning for Senior Pet Care:
Seniors who require a caregiver and own a pet or are considering getting a pet need to take in account several important factors. Some questions to take into account when determining whether to keep a pet in this season of life include:
- What animal and/or breed is the most low-maintenance and easy going?
- What assistance will be required for the senior to care for the pet?
- Could the pet pose a serious threat to the senior’s safety?
- Is it possible for the pet to belong to a loved one and visit regularly instead?
- What happens to the pet if the senior can no longer care for it?
- Can the pet live with the senior if they need to move into a facility and what is required for this to happen?
- Is a pet sitter or caregiver going to need to be hired to help groom and exercise the pet or transport it to the veterinarian?
- Is the senior financially able to care and provide for the pet?
- Are there any other health concerns such as allergies, asthma, oxygen use, etc that might pose a problem to keeping a pet? (Forbes)
If a senior does want and need a pet and it is determined that a pet would be beneficial to them there are several ways to go about bringing a pet into the home successfully.
- Talk to a local vet, shelter, or adoption center specialist to identify an animal that would be a good match.
- Try to choose a pet that is under 20 pounds as many senior facilities that allow pets have weight limits around this number. Seek out animals which have lower energy levels and physical demands as well. Some recommended dog breeds for seniors are poodles, French bulldogs, schipperke, maltese, and Pembroke Welsh corgi. Cat breeds include birman, ragdoll, Russian blue, British shorthair, Persian. (Vet Street; Cat-World)
- Try to make accommodations to the home to allow the pet to have access to an area where it can independently relieve itself without adding additional work for the senior.
- Make pet care low maintenance such as choosing automatic dispensers for food and water, finding a veterinarian that does home visits, and making the home pet friendly and senior safe by having areas to store toys and pet needs out of the way of seniors.
- Social the pet with friends and loved ones in case the pet needs to move to a different home and have a plan in place.
- Adopt a pet that is mature and already trained – try not to adopt young animals if possible.
- Arrange for assistance with pet care in case the senior needs help. (Petful)
Why Pet Therapy is Beneficial
Some seniors cannot have their own pets for a variety of reasons. But for an animal lover this can be stressful and depressing to no longer be able to own or interact with pets. Pet therapy is an alternative to pet ownership. The benefits of pet therapy are diverse and affect both physical and mental health in positive ways. Many senior living communities and facilities offer pet therapy through resident animals or visitations. Pet therapy groups visit hospitals and senior centers as well as nursing homes and care facilities on a routine basis. Many will also come to a seniors home. Be sure to check out the options in your area. (A Place for Mom)
Benefits of pet interaction for seniors and others can include:
- Gaining companionship
- Dealing with stress
- Using less medication
- Experiencing lowered blood pressure and cholesterol
- Recovery from injury or surgery faster
- Staying Active
- Becoming more social
- Avoiding depression and loneliness
- Feeling comforted and calm (Caring People Inc)
Safe @ Home also recommends that pet medications be kept clearly labled and far away from senior medications. This can help to prevent a mix up which could be dangerous or deadly. Safe @ Home is proud to be a pet friendly business and would be happy to talk to you about helping your senior continue to live at home and keep their pet in the home as well.