When Aging Parents Can No Longer Care for their Pets
In a previous post I wrote about the many advantages senior citizens (or Golden Oldies as I prefer to call them) gain from pet ownership.
My local paper published a story last week about two dogs currently up for adoption who were owned by an elderly gentleman. Reading it made me recognize another aspect of seniors and pet ownership I had not thought deeply about before.
Even if our Golden Oldies are physically and mentally fit now, who will care for their pet(s) if they become ill, require a hospital stay, or have to leave their homes completely and move into a care facility? What if their pets outlive them?
Pet Care Alternatives
Planning ahead is always important when it comes to eldercare — including decisions about their pets. Talking about the various options in advance, and not in the midst of an emergency, will help your Golden Oldies figure out logically what their choices are and what they would prefer to see happen. With the decisions already in hand, it will be easier for them (and/or for you) to implement the necessary changes.
You and your parents might want to write their wishes in a document (signed and dated) once they are decided upon. Even though it isn’t an official legally-binding document such as a will, at least their desires for their pets’ care will be clear and more easily executed when need be.
Short Term Care Options
During a brief illness or a short-term hospital stay, seniors would probably prefer a family member, neighbor or friend to care for their pet(s). Identify who they would like them to be, and also designate one or two back up people just in case the first choice isn’t available for some unforeseen circumstance. Ask the designated individuals or families in advance if they can, and would be willing to, take on this responsibility. Also ask if they would or could consider caring for the pets if your aging parents’ hospital stay is lengthier than anticipated. Prepare a resource list of the pets’ daily routines, favorite foods (and treats), exercise needs, medical records, any medications they take and the veterinarians’ contact information.
A More Permanent Change
If your Golden Oldie reaches the point where they have to leave their home and move into assisted living or a nursing home, you will want to talk with them well in advance about these possible options:
- Identify and visit care facilities that allow residents to bring their pets with them Happily more and more senior residences are offering this option, which is a win-win for everyone involved. Not having to leave a beloved pet behind would be a huge factor in creating a happier and easier transition to a new home for your Golden Oldie.
- A family member, friend or neighbor adopting their pet permanently. With this solution, the pet can still visit their Golden Oldie on a regular basis.
- Ask the veterinarian for contact information for local animal rescue, pet assistance organizations, or the Humane Society to find their pet a new loving home. One online resource is Pets911.com (1-888-PETS-911), whose mission is to give “easy access to all the local pet information necessary to instill responsible pet ownership and overcome the issue of animal homelessness.”
Pets and their owners have strong bonds. It’s perfectly understandable why we’d like to avoid facing these decisions or even having these talks with our Golden Oldies. But by being proactive, it will make their lives less stressful in the long run. Their pets will also be very glad you did. 🙂
Are there other pet arrangements that you and your Golden Oldies came up with?
Have you thought about these questions before?
Have you and your aging parents had any discussions yet on this topic? How did it go?
Let’s discuss in the Comment section below.
Photo Credit: Linda Abbit (c) 2009