As more nursing homes and assisted living facilities begin to shift toward a more pet friendly approach to help accommodate the emotional needs of their residents, seniors and their families should begin to examine the pros and cons of living with pets where facility rules permit. In addition to accounting for size and weight restrictions of pets that facilities may impose, individuals need to consider whether or not their age and health allow them to properly care for the animal as well.
For elders who have lost a spouse, living with a pet can provide much needed companionship, emotional support, and to provide the unconditional love and support we all need. However, pets need medical attention of their own which includes trips to the vet for shots, checkups, and medical treatment. Furthermore, animals can suffer from their own health problems like arthritis, pneumonia, and even the flu.
Other issues like the health of the elder can affect whether or not it may be suitable to keep a pet in old age or in an assisted living facility as canes and walkers do not always make for a good mix with certain types of pets. Frail elders with balance issues or those with vision problems may not be safe with even small dogs that run, jump, or are otherwise rambunctious. Additionally, it is not fair to the animal if its owner cannot take it for a walk, necessitating outside care for the animal.
While the ideal situation would be for our beloved elders to remain with the pets they care so dearly for, it may be necessary to separate the two or seek help from an outside party to manage the care of the animal. This may include hiring a dog walker to take the animal out and ensure the pet receives food and water every day.
Where hiring an outside pet care specialist is not feasible, families may need to take custody of the animal and bring it to visit whenever possible in order to maintain the emotional support necessary to help keep our loved one’s spirits high. To that end, elders and their families should consider long term care plans to help individuals and their pets transition into the next phase of their life and ensure that both pets and their owners live happy, healthy lives without the added danger of an avoidable injury.