Pets

drmarion's picture

Pets can offer many benefits for seniors. Many seniors have pets they love, and often a pet is their only daily companion. It might even be easier for your senior to express affection for a pet than for some family members. Pets have been proven to reduce blood pressure and stress, and to relieve depression.

If you are considering getting a pet for a senior in your life, consider the amount of work it will require. There are some pets that are less work, such as birds or fish. Even cats require a lot less work than dogs. There are also services available in some towns where local volunteers will come in once a week to clean the birdcage or fish tank. Having a pet is both an added variable and a mixed blessing for your elder, but I do encourage it. Being responsible for another living being can bring great rewards, especially for those elderly who live alone. The pet becomes someone to talk to, and a loyal companion who will keep secrets.

Some pets, though, can cause problems. For example, if dogs aren’t allowed to go outside often enough, they might urinate and defecate in the home. Some elderly have been known to trip and fall over their pets. If your elder already has a pet, make sure that he is being fed, given regular exercise, and is otherwise taken care of. Think of ways you can help, such as hiring a dog walker, or having the pet wear a collar with a bell.

If regular feeding and exercise for your elder’s pet cannot be achieved, you may need to find a new home for him. But think long and hard before getting rid of any pets. Sometimes, a creative deal can be struck. One client of mine started to frequently trip over her adorable cat, but we found a neighbor to take the cat. My client then visited the neighbor to see the cat once a day and it was a great arrangement for everyone involved.

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