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When Seniors Suffer the Loss of a Pet

Over Thanksgiving with family, a comment from one of my cousins at a holiday meal many years ago came to mind when I saw him:  “When I die, I want to come back as Grandma’s dog!”

For as long as I can remember, our maternal grandmother always seemed to have a dog. Whether out at the farm where my  Grandparents lived for decades; or when Grandma moved into town after Papa died, she loved the companionship and unconditional love that Tinker, Charcoal, June Lea, and Pobo (just to name a few), always provided…and she spoiled each one rotten! Thus, the comment from my cousin!

I also remember the gut-wrenching pain that would seemingly immobilize her usual vibrant spirit when she lost one of her beloved canines. Tears flowed endlessly during those times of loss, and having been a pet owner myself, Grandma’s pain was always understandable, immeasurable, and met with great empathy.

When she lost a pet, not only did she lose a companion who always provided unconditional love, she lost a dear friend who listened intently, didn’t judge her, and seemingly understood her.

Pets are like family members, so when seniors lose a pet, the void of the missing life and spirit of the animal is very real and can result in seniors losing their sense of purpose.

The Humane Society of the United States explains that when seniors grieve the loss of a pet, it can be a profound event, forcing them to face their own mortality, often triggering memories of other traumatic losses of family members. It is suggested that “senior pet owners take steps to cope with their loss and regain a sense of purpose.”

This doesn’t mean that you should immediately go out and adopt or buy a new pet for Grandma. She will require some time to process the loss of her beloved furbaby, and you will need to make sure she is capable of handling the physical and fiscal responsibilities that go along with pet ownership at her age.

To help Grandma cope, family, friends and loved ones should give her time to grieve; take time to talk to her about the loss; ask her to consider calling a pet loss hotline to combat loneliness; or suggest she volunteer at one of the local animal shelters: SPCA Suncoast and the Humane Society of Pinellas .

Always ask Grandma before adopting or purchasing a pet for her, rather than acting on impulse. It might seem like a good idea at the time, especially during the holidays, but since both she and a new pet are extremely vulnerable, it’s best for both that a pet is actually a welcome gift.

If Grandma is able to handle the responsibilities and she is open to welcoming a new pet into her life, let her take part in choosing a new companion. Remember, it is very important to consider an animal’s temperament, age, and size when it comes to aging adults.

Companions for seniors – be they two- or four-legged – help them maintain a more positive quality of life. If your special senior someone has lost a pet and is unable or unwilling to open their heart and home to another furbaby, Home Helpers® caregivers may be the perfect solution.

Our caregivers provide companionship, perform light housework, run errands, prepare meals, and more. I welcome the opportunity to provide a FREE in-home consultation to meet with you and your loved one, assess their specific needs, and match the perfect, compassionate caregiver to be there and help prevent the inevitable feelings of loneliness and depression that often occur with the loss of a pet.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠  (727) 240-3059


Humane Society of the United States