The Right Pet for Aging Parents or Elderly Clients
As mentioned in the last blog post most of this month will be focused on pets for your aging parents and elderly clients. If they already have pets then you have seen the positive effects: reason for routine, unconditional love, and socialization factors which all lead to greater satisfaction with current life situations.
Let’s explore the subject in case those you care for have indicated they would like to have one or two pets. Cats and dogs make up the majority of household pets across all age spans. Rabbits, birds, gerbils, nice, snakes, tarantulas, and rats appeal mostly to younger age groups, but may not provide the socialization factor appreciated by most older adults.
When assisting your elderly parents or clients in choosing a pet there are a number of things to keep in mind:
* Puppies and kittens are probably not a good choice. They require frequent feedings, multiple potty breaks, training, and sometimes more vigorous exercise than older animals. They also get under foot more easily and can create a hazard leading to falls.
* Physical size of any pet should be considered. Large dogs require longer walks, more physical exercise, and larger servings of food. Small, or mid-sized dogs, are easier to handle on a leash, take up less room in the home or a vehicle, and eat less.
* Dogs need fresh air and exercise. If your parents or clients are unable to walk a dog is there a fenced run or a yard to meet this need? Is there money to hire a dog walker? Who will poop scoop?
* Some breeds of dogs require frequent grooming. Is your parent or client able to perform the task or is there enough money to pay a groomer?
* Long-haired cats do well with frequent combing to combat hair balls. Once again, is your parent or client capable of grooming the cat? If not, is there someone who could be paid to do it or might do it on a volunteer basis?
* Whether to spay or neuter an animal is often not a choice if the animal is adopted from an animal shelter, but if purchased from a breeder this is the owner’s option. Keep in mind that unneutered males and unspayed females can be disruptive in a household and even exhibit drastic changes of behavior at times.
* Is there any history of allergies or sensitivities to pet dander or fur? If so, speak with an animal specialist to obtain information on breeds least likely to cause symptoms.
The advantages of having a pet far out weigh any negatives if the decision is made based on solid information and planning. The suggestions above are just a starting point to get the dialogue moving and exploration of options considered.
A funny aside: while writing this post I heard a crash in the kitchen upstairs and the sound of hooves on the wood floor. At first I though the dog had come in due to either fireworks or thunder since we were anticipating a storm any minute. I called to the dog encouraging her to join me downstairs where she could cuddle next to me. When she didn’t appear I walked to the bottom of the stairs to offer further encouragement.
Imagine my surprise when I observed our youngest goat standing at the top of the stairs, wild-eyed and panicked, and dropping pellets all over the floor. (I am staying with a friend who has horses, goats, chickens, turkeys, cats, and a dog). As I went upstairs to lead her back outside to her pen she pranced across the floor running back through the screen door she’d ripped on her way into the house.
A few minutes later, with the crisis averted, the goat returned to her pen and re-secured, and all other animals bedded down for the night I reflected on the timing of the event. No, I don’t recommend goats as an appropriate pet for your aging parents or elderly clients. They can be lovable, but they’re strong, playful, and definitely mischievous.
In closing, let me assure you that having a pet in the home can be a very positive experience for your aging parents or elderly clients. The key to a satisfactory pet experience is to assist them in evaluating the human physical limitations, stamina, and routines against the requirements of the chosen pet in order to find a suitable match. The blessings of pets at any age have been documented in research and shown to improve life satisfaction, longevity, and social interaction in the elderly.
I’d love to hear your pet stories and appreciate your input.