We often hear how pets are wonderful companions for older adults. Pets provide much-needed comfort, friendship and love to our seniors.
They add so much to life physically and emotionally. For many older people, a pet can be the difference-maker between getting up in the morning and staying in bed all day. Everyone needs a reason to get up and get the day started.
Our cats, Chelsea and Connor, signal us when it is time to get up by jumping onto our bed and dancing around the pillows. I’m not very smart when it comes to cat body language, but I’m pretty sure this dance ritual means it’s time to eat.
For the past 26 years, we’ve had a family pet — first our dog, Hewey, for 16 years, and now our cats. It would be odd for us to come home from work and not be greeted by a fury friend. Our pets have become like family.
The unconditional attention and love we receive from them is priceless. And although all our pets have been rescued animals, I can’t help but feel as though we receive more from them than they do from us. Maybe we are the ones who really needed rescuing.
Many families have had to face the challenge of giving up a pet when good care can no longer be provided by the pet owner. How do you tell Dad he has to give up his beloved dog because he cannot care for him anymore? It is a difficult, heartbreaking task.
There are options, however. Depending on the situation, plans can be made for augmented help to come to the home and care for the pet. Sometimes, a neighbor or family friend may be able to offer assistance. And then there is care.com, a national website designed to provide a full list of pet caregivers throughout the country. The expense for pet caregiving can range quite a bit, so do your homework and decide in advance how much you are willing to pay for this type of service.
When aging pet owners find themselves unable to care for their animal or pay for additional care, surrendering the pet usually is the best course of action. Again, there are options. Adopting the pet out to a family member or friend may work best. Many times, this can allow for routine visits between the pet and the previous owner. Ask your veterinarian about re-housing your pet. Vets have many resources and usually can help find the pet a new home. Also be sure to let the pet owner have a say in the decision-making process.
Euthanizing a pet should be a last resort. Although pets and owners do create a special bond, most pets can adapt to a new owner given time and the proper approach.
When considering a move to a senior-living community, check to see if it has a pet policy. Most communities today allow pets and even will interview the pet prior to move-in. Fleas and uncontrollable barking are a few of the things the community administrator will be looking for. Advanced directives for pet care also are common nowadays.
Pet-therapy programs have become popular within senior-living communities for all the reasons mentioned above. The nice thing about this program is people can visit with the pet, but don’t have the worries associated with pet care.
Live well, my friends.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.