Pet ownership may not be appropriate for every senior. Here are some things to consider before bringing a pet into a seniors life.
1. Rule out medical reasons
It’s hard to enjoy a pet if it makes you sneeze, break out in a skin rash or suffer an asthma attack. That’s why it’s important to rule out any medical reasons for not getting a pet.
First make sure your loved one has no allergies to pet dander. Next, poll everyone who provides care for your loved one to see if they have pet allergy issues. If anyone is allergic, then you should probably avoid getting a pet. Despite the popular term “hypoallergenic pet,” you need to realize that technically there is no such thing as an allergy-free animal.
2. Who will take care of the pet?
Caring for a pet can provide a senior loved one with a real sense of purpose. No longer is your family member only a care-receiver; now he or she can be a care-giver, too.
But not all seniors may be able to take care of a pet on a daily basis. Be sure to take into account their ability to meet its needs—now and in the future. Will your loved one remember to feed and water the animal? Will he or she be able to walk the dog twice a day?
If physical or cognitive decline renders your senior family member unable to care for the pet, who will step in to help? If you think you eventually may need to remove the pet from the home, realize it can be an emotionally wrenching experience for both your family member and the animal.
3. What breed makes the best couch potato?
Companionship represents one of the greatest benefits of pets for seniors. Simply having a warm body to hug, stroke and love can keep a senior calm and congenial.
For this reason, you probably want to avoid getting a high-strung or high-energy dog or cat. Instead, opt for animals that exhibit an easygoing temperament. Some dog breeds, are known for their laid-back nature. And sedate, elderly cats can be hard for shelters to adopt out, creating a win for both your loved one and the kitty. Consider choosing an animal that will be happy to sit quietly and snuggle with your loved one for hours on end. If your loved one likes to get out for walks pick a more active breed. Sometines walking every day is what keep a senior going. and their pet needs to be walked it could be a perfect match.
4. Are you a cuddler?
For example some larger breeds may be couch potatoes, but they’re not lap dogs. If your senior family member wants a pet that can be held and cuddled, be sure to get one of an appropriate size. And if bathing and grooming the pet won’t be an issue for you or your loved one, you might consider choosing a breed with longer, silkier hair. These animals can be a delight to touch and hug.
5. Who will choose the new pet?
It can be hard to cope with the loss of physical function or the cognitive decline that often accompany aging. Seniors often report feeling depressed when they become dependent on others for their care. Having a pet to take care of can help a senior feel needed again.
To start that journey to restored purpose, let your family member choose the pet instead of surprising them with a dog or cat as a gift. Allowing your loved one to pick out the new pet confers a sense of control and decision-making power they may be lacking in other areas of their life.
Take a trip to the shelter together and let your senior relative meet a selection of animals to see how they interact. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s decision-making ability, call the shelter ahead of time and tell them what types of pets you’re looking for. That way, your family member will interact with a pre-screened group that meets your criteria.
A furry family member can be a valuable part of your caregiving team. They offer boundless, unconditional love, lend a non-judgmental ear when you need to vent and can provide an amusing distraction with their antics.