Should My Elderly Loved One Get a Pet?

Elder Care in Elkhorn NE: Should My Elderly Loved One Get a Pet?
Elder Care in Elkhorn NE: Should My Elderly Loved One Get a Pet?

Rebecca’s elderly aunt had always been active, but in recent years her physical abilities had taken a turn for the worse. It was hard for Rebecca to see her aunt unable to socialize as she used to and to sit for long hours just watching television unless she or the elder care assistant were around.

Rebecca wondered about getting her aunt a dog or a cat for companionship, but wasn’t sure about the commitment level required for a pet. Rebecca spent many weeks thinking about whether she should get her elderly loved one a dog or cat to brighten her days.

Pets can provide a number of benefits to the elderly but it is a decision that should be considered very carefully by both the senior and the family caregiver. Dogs and cats have been human companions for centuries for good reason and when seniors are suddenly less mobile and more isolated, it makes sense to introduce a furry canine or feline friend. If you are a family caregiver that is thinking about getting an elderly loved one a pet, there are plenty of good reasons why.

When it comes to companionship, dogs and cats are ideal. While family caregivers, friends and elder care assistants must come and go, the pet is there constantly. Many pets become attuned to their owner’s needs and are content to cuddle during down times or be playful during better moments. Many seniors are at risk for depression, anxiety and stress in their later years, and studies show that owning a dog or cat can help with mental health.

A dog or cat can provide them with a daily routine and give them something to focus on with vet appointments, grooming, purchasing food and toys, training them and more. Being a responsible pet owner can help elderly loved ones feel needed and useful. They can find a lot of satisfaction being a good pet owner. Seniors sometimes struggle to add some variety and interest to their day, especially if they are less mobile than they used to be. Owning a dog can prompt them to start up some light exercise. Walking the dog, even around the backyard, can become a good excuse to get them up and outside.

Before committing to a dog or cat, elderly loved ones and family caregivers need to do a serious life assessment to figure out what kind of pet would work best. If the elderly loved one is somewhat active, a medium dog might be a good fit. For homebound or bedridden seniors, smaller dogs or a cat would work better. Different breeds have varying temperaments and so it’s a good idea to steer clear of very hyper or overly active dogs. Some shelters allow potential adoptive owners to try the pet for a week or two to see if they are compatible with each other. If a full-time pet is ultimately not a good decision, many shelters will allow people to foster animals until they are adopted.

When thinking about a pet for an elderly loved one, family caregivers should realize that some of the responsibility for care will fall to themselves and the elder care assistants. However, that can be a small price to pay in exchange for the numerous health benefits that their aging loved one will receive in becoming a new pet owner.


If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Elkhorn, NE, please contact the caring staff at Seniors Helping Seniors® Greater Omaha at (402) 215-0308 today.

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