How to Help Aging Parents with their Pets
Beloved pets are part of the family, so what happens when your loved ones can no longer care for them due to aging? There are options available to help you and your elderly family member make a decision that is right for all involved. If possible, we want to avoid the painful separation of pet owner and pet. Animals such as dogs and cats not only provide unconditional love and joy, pets also have clinically been shown to improve health in the elderly population. Just a few of the benefits include lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety, depression and boredom.
Pets are a responsibility that require a certain amount of maintenance and care at any age. In some cases, it is inevitable that the pet must be re-homed. Moving into a pet restricted community such as an assisted living or nursing home is a common instance where a pet can no longer live with it’s owner. Below are tips for pet management and pet relocation acclimation.
Pet Service for hire-If your parent is having a difficult time taking the dog out for walks and potty time, hiring a dog walker may be a great option to choose.
- Assisted Living or Retirement Community- If your parent is in a retirement community or assisted living, ask management if they can recommend anyone in the area. Often times there is already an established dog walker being used by fellow residents in pet friendly communities. If your parent needs help with their cat, ask the dog walker if they offer other pet services as well.
- In-Home Pet Care- Check to see if there your parents community has a neighborhood social networking site such as nextdoor.com or goneighbour.org. Here you can find people who live in the neighborhood or surrounding areas offering pet services. I prefer these types of sites over craigslist because you have the option to ask others in the community for input, recommendations and see other information on the individual. Another option is to find a company rather than a single individual in your area such as the nationwide company Fetch! Pet Care. This may be a bit more pricey, however, you may feel more comfortable with this type of establishment.
Find a volunteer- Do you or your parent belong to a church? Many churches offer volunteer opportunities to it’s members. If your church has a youth group ask if they offer summer or after school volunteer opportunities for the teens. Volunteering builds character, teaches responsibility, strengthens compassion and shows the value of giving back. This option could be a triple win your elderly parent, their pet and the volunteer. Volunteers can also be found by searching the web using key words such as “volunteer for the elderly” There are programs designated specifically for helping senior citizens in all areas including pet care.
Re-home to a family member or close friend- In cases where the pet cannot live with your parent either temporarily or permanently, the best alternative may be for the pet to stay with a family member or close friend. This gives peace of mind to your parent(s) that their beloved companion will be well taken care of and visits could be arranged. If people in your close circle are unable to adopt, extending your network pool to acquaintances and friends of friends would be the next step before considering a shelter. Post a nice photo of the pet on social media such as Facebook adding the reason why he or she needs to go to a new good home. This way the animal does not have to spend any time in a cage at a shelter and can go straight to a loving home.
Non profit organizations/No kill shelters for re-homing- Pets are lifelong commitments and when that commitment must be broken it can be very difficult emotionally to have that bond broken. Even if the owner has not been able to show his or her affection for the pet in some time due to ailments, illness or injury, the separation can still feel just as intense.Make sure all other options have been exhausted before choosing to surrender a pet to a shelter leaving this option as a last resort resource.