When Pets are Family to Our Senior Loved Ones

Many of us grew up with a pet in our home. Whether a dog, cat, bird, fish or ferret, that pet was a part of the family.

A recent study indicates that seniors who live independently with a pet in the home live a healthier, longer and happier life due to better physical and emotional well-being. Seniors who own a pet are more likely to have a positive outlook since their pets ward off depression and loneliness. This improved state of health results in a lower incidence of seeking medical care and reduced healthcare costs. As a matter of fact, in a study of 1,000 Medicare patients, pet owners had 21% fewer physician’s contacts than non-dog owners.

As our senior loved ones age, so do their pets. Oftentimes, after the kids leave the nest, elders have only their beloved pets for companionship. These furry friends are the reason for our senior adults to get going everyday — Scruffy needs to eat, Fluffy needs some water or it’s time for a walk!

Unfortunately, there are times that not only do our seniors need your care, but so do their pets.

What is your plan for your parent’s dog or cat or bird if they should have to go to a facility and no longer able to stay in their home or simply become unable to care for them on their own?

Recently, we had to leave our four-legged family member in the vet “hotel” for many days and it was heart wrenching for us all. It made us think about what might happen if we couldn’t keep him with us in our home, no matter that “home” has changed to a senior living facility.

Solutions for the Care of Your Senior’s Pets

  1. The first best course would be that a close family member would be able to adopt your senior’s dog, cat or bird so that your senior can still maintain a relationship with it. My grandmother’s companion was her bird. She loved that little thing! I remember how I used to go to grandma’s to see her birds (she had many over the years!).
  2. Find an adoption center that will find a new home for your senior’s pet. Not a great solution because then your senior won’t be able to visit with his or her pet but at least they will know the pet will be provided necessary care and love in another home.
  3. Board your senior’s pet with the vet for an extended stay. Naturally, this will cost money but at least the pet will be able to visit with his “mom or dad” regularly.  We know a few seniors whose adult children live far away. When their parents entered an assisted living facility for more supervision, their pets weren’t welcome and they now board their parents’ pets, which allows for a visit as often as possible and the pet is lovingly care for by the doctor’s staff.
  4. Find a pet-friendly place for your senior loved one to live if extra care is needed. Smaller personal care homes may accept a cat or even a dog in the facility as long as their daily care and food is covered by your senior. Several facilities will accept a fishbowl in the room as long as the family keeps it maintained.
  5. Naturally, the ideal situation would be to age in place as long as it remains safe so that your senior loved can remain with their companions as long as possible.

Staying healthy, eating and drinking well, staying physically active and engaged in the community will increase the likelihood of our seniors staying in their homes as long as possible and with their pets. We shouldn’t overlook even small lifestyle changes to keep our seniors healthy as they age.

It is estimated that of 57% of adults aged 50-64 years own pets, as do 43% of those aged 65 and older.

Let’s also remember to keep the pets as healthy as possible to ease the burden on our seniors for their care. Regular veterinarian visits, shots when needed, playtime, exercise and love will help keep your senior’s pets healthy companions. We love this website, From Our Dogs to Yours, for ideas for your dog selected by  the dogs who run the site.

We would love to hear your suggestions for how you handled a transition for your senior’s pets!

3 thoughts on “When Pets are Family to Our Senior Loved Ones”

  1. Pets are considered as the best friends of human beings. Especially the older persons who lead a lonely life can spend a lot of time with their pets. They can fight their loneliness and stay happier and healthier. Even the doctors also agree to this fact.

  2. I think this article presents a great cases for seniors owning pets. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives, negatives that I feel can easily be addressed by the solutions you posed.

Comments are closed.