Pets can be a wonderful addition to anyone’s home. If a senior who has a caregiver or who needs caregiving has a pet or would like to get a pet, there are many factors that need to be considered. The following questions should be asked when determining whether to get or keep a pet at this stage in life:
- What kind of animal and/or breed will be the best companion and the easiest to care for?
- Will the senior need assistance to care for the pet?
- For seniors who are at risk for falls, could the animal pose a serious safety threat?
- Would it be better for a loved one to own the pet and bring it for regular visits?
- What happens to the pet if the senior cannot care for it any longer or must relocate to a facility?
Many seniors with pets ask their caregivers to help groom and exercise their animals as well as take them to the vet when necessary. For those who have decided to get a pet, it’s a good idea to speak with a veterinarian or pet adoption agency to help identify an animal that would be a good fit. Here are some things to consider:
- The weight of the pet – the pet’s weight should be manageable by the senior and, also, many pet-friendly senior facilities have weight limits
- Setting up or modifying the home so the pet can relieve themselves independently
- Automatic dispensing dishes for food and water providing lower maintenance
- Adopting a pet that is mature and has already been trained
- Arranging for assistance with pet care in case a senior needs help
Animal-loving seniors can reap many benefits from having a pet or receiving pet therapy. Geriatric specialists mostly agree that aside from companionship, a pet can help seniors cope with stress, stay more active, avoid depression and loneliness and be more sociable. Although pet ownership may present challenges, the benefits may outweigh the risks and challenges.