One of the difficult parts of pet ownership is knowing when to let go. If your senior parent has a pet, they are most likely very attached. The emotional bond between seniors and their pets can be a very powerful one, so navigating this subject can be tricky.
If you feel the pet isn’t being cared for properly or the responsibility of the pet is becoming too much, it may be time to intervene. Here are some signs to look for and helpful solutions to consider.
1. Is the senior becoming forgetful? Check often to make sure the pet always has food and water in their dish. If the pet is overweight, they may be overfed. Alternatively, check to make sure they are not too thin and being underfed. Also, make sure the pet is being let out frequently enough. If you suspect the pet is going potty inside the house, you should investigate.
• Solution: A fenced yard with a doggie door may solve this problem. Also, an automatic feeding system would ensure the animal always has access to food and water.
2. Is mobility a problem? If taking the dog on a walk has become too big of a chore, intervention may be warranted. Also, if the senior adult has a cat, check to make sure the litter is being changed regularly. Air quality can be drastically reduced if the stench of urine permeates the home, so this is important to check.
What Do You Do if Caring for the Pet Has Become Too Much?
First, remember you have options! Many retirement communities or assisted living facilities are pet-friendly. If this is something your parent is considering, be sure to ask about it, as they may be able to keep their pet with them. If your older adult has any mental impairments or physical handicaps, you may need to consider rehoming the pet.
There are also many charities who specialize in assisting seniors with their pets. They have volunteers who will come walk the pet, offer food and water and change litter. Many will even assist in administering medications or taking the pet to veterinarian appointments.
Another possible solution is to rehome the pet with a friend, neighbor, or family member so that the senior adult can still visit with the pet as frequently as possible.
When Separation is Necessary
If the time comes and separation is inevitable, you’ll want to be as sensitive as possible. It can be traumatic for seniors to be separated from beloved animals, so assuring them the pet will be happy and healthy is crucial to make the transition as smooth as possible. Remember also that it can be difficult for the pet as well as the senior. Assurance that visits are possible will help. If it’s not possible for the pet to stay connected with the senior, consider utilizing a therapy dog. There are many wonderful organizations that will volunteer to make house calls with dogs or other animals that are specially trained to offer interaction with seniors.
It’s tough to lose a pet, no matter how old we are! Just remember that you are doing what’s best for the senior parent, as well as the animal.
For more information on how to determine if a pet has become too much for the senior in your life, contact us today!