The benefits of an animal companion to the elderly are scientifically studied and confirmed. Because many people live alone as they grow older, loneliness is a major contributing factor in physical and mental health. Those who have a furry friend to share life with report a higher quality of life. Some benefits of pet ownership include decreased depression, increased self-worth, a source of security, lower blood pressure, and lessened stress.
Despite the positives associated with pet ownership and the elderly, their increasing age coupled with decreasing health and mobility raise concerns about their long-term ability to care for their companion. To ensure that your elderly loved one can remain with their pet as long as possible, there are many things you can do to help.
Assisting the Elderly in the Care of Pet Companions
- Providing Supplies - Many Seniors live on a fixed income, so buying needed supplies is a possible problem area. Check to make sure they are able to provide things such as food and litter. Consider involving all family members and creating a donation schedule to distribute the burden.
- Household Organization - Are the pet's supplies organized in such a way to make it easy for your loved one to use them? Put leashes in easy to reach places as well as food and bowls. If they can't lift heavy cat litter jugs or food bags, make someone available to help or divide them into small, easy to use containers. Provide an easy-to-access list of all phone numbers such as vets office, groomers, friends, and neighbors.
- Exercise - Dogs have lots of energy, however, your Senior may not. If they are physically unable to provide enough exercise for their pet, find family or friends who can walk the dog on a regular basis or take them outside to play.
- Grooming/Cleaning - Things like bathing, brushing, and clipping nails may become too much to handle, as can cleaning a litter box or vacuuming pet hair. Check in to make sure your loved one doesn't need assistance. If family or neighbors aren't always available, see if a local grooming service offers house calls.
- Medical Care - Getting to a vet can pose a challenge, whether it's regular care or an emergency. Designate one or multiple people who can provide transportation when needed, or see if any local vets will come to the home. Medical care is also expensive. If your loved one isn't able to afford the necessary care, check with friends and family. Other options to look into include pet insurance and assistance programs for low-income individuals. One such organization is Seniors for Pets. You can also search the website of the Humane Society of the United States by state to look for financial assistance. Some vet offices offer their own assistance funds.
- Pet-Friendly Housing - If your Senior is considering moving from their home into an assisted living community, help them find one that is pet-friendly. Not only is it difficult to find new homes for older pets, it is heartbreaking for your loved one to give them up.
- Pet Sitting - Many elderly individuals find themselves in and out of hospitals due to health problems. Set up a support network so that during these times away from home there is always someone available to care for their furry companion.
- Choose Appropriate Pets - If your Senior doesn't have a pet but wants to adopt, help them choose an appropriate animal. Puppies and kittens aren't the best choices for an elderly person, as they require a lot of care and energy. Help them find older animals in need of homes that will be as laid back as they are and require less care. If adoption fees are a concern, many organizations offer monetary assistance. A simple Google search will help you find the right one for you.
If you don't have an elderly loved one but are still interested in helping others care for and keep their animal friends, you can always donate to places such as Senior Centers, Assisted Living Communities, and Local Vet Offices. Some cities have a Meals on Wheels Program designed to help pets as well as humans. Check with your local program to see if they participate.
At Caring Senior Service, our expert staff is comprised of extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and trusted professionals who take pride in helping your loved one manage their daily activities. Contact us today to learn more!