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Let’s Talk Pets for your Aging Parent or Elderly Client

July 4, 2012

Happy July 4th to all my readers and colleagues. I hope you are having a fun, safe, and joyous holiday! I am so grateful to live in this wonderful country.

With the onset of July we’ll switch topics. I hope you enjoyed the posts on safety. We will return to that topic repeatedly, but for now let’s move on to talking about pets and how they impact the lives of your aging parents or elderly clients.


For the first time since I was a child I have no pets to share my life. In 2011 I had to put my two German Shepherds to sleep when they were each diagnosed to be in the end stages of  separate terminal illnesses.  I had adopted them through a Shepherd Rescue eighteen months earlier and was devastated to lose them both after so short a time. Both were older dogs and I cherished out time together.

After putting the dogs to rest I still had an elderly cat. I had inherited her when I bought a home eleven years ago. She was a dedicated barn cat and the sellers did not want to uproot her.  Three years ago she developed some arthritis and decided to retire as the barn cat and take over as caretaker of my bed. In March, a few months shy of her 21st birthday she developed kidney failure and I had to put her to rest.

As a result I am currently without any animals. The situation got me to thinking how animals affect our lives.  A house without animals feels empty to me. I miss having four-footed companions meet me at the door with loving smiles and wagging tails.

Your aging parents and elderly clients may have pets who share their home. As you discuss changes in their lifestyle be sure to include a conversation about their pets. It may not seem to be an important topic to you, but engaging your parents or clients in this conversation once again reinforces their need to have control of their lives and to be included in decisions.

* Ask how they want the death of a pet handled.

* Ask their wishes in case they die and the pet is still living.

* Assist them in determining who will care for the pet in the event they are incapacitated or hospitalized.

* Encourage continued well-care check-ups and vaccinations for their pet.

* Explore with them the exercise and food needs for the pet. Are they able to continue to handle these tasks or should a pet service be hired to walk and poop scoop?


Sometimes after the death of a spouse a parent or client may express the desire to obtain a pet. Explore with them the responsibilities inherent in having a pet and see if they still want to pursue the idea. If so, be supportive and assist them in finding a pet that will fit their lifestyle. A puppy requires constant care, training, and can be disruptive. An older dog may have ingrained bad habits. Choosing carefully and being honest about the limitations of the elder can lead to a happy and fulfilling experience for both the pet and the owner.

A word of caution however will prevent disappointment and grief. Please don’t just run out and purchase a pet for your parent or client without discussing it with them. It is important that they want the pet and that they choose one that will fit their personality and their home.

If a dog is the animal chosen to share life with your parents or client then help them pick out the right sized collar, leash, bedding and food bowls. Be sure any animal chosen has received proper vaccinations and a  health exam. Review feeding and watering instructions and plan for adequate exercise and stool removal for the pet. If a cat is chosen then make sure there are scratch boards and bedding as well as proper food bowls and a litter box.

If you have pictures of your parents or clients with their pets I’d love to include them in the posts about pets for the remainder of the month. Please feel free to leave a comment below. I will let you know how to contact me to submit pictures if you indicate an interest.

As always, your questions and comments are greatly appreciated!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2012 9:08 pm

    Pets have offered enormous comfort and joy and motivation to both my mother and my grandmother before her. Thank you for bringing attention to this important topic!

    • July 10, 2012 12:35 pm

      Thanks for commenting. If you have any specific stories you’d like to share I’d love to post them. You can e-mail me directly at the following if you’d like.

  2. July 18, 2012 11:17 am

    please keep on posting such quality.

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