- Is the senior set in their ways? If change isn’t your loved one’s cup of tea, then they may not be a good candidate. Adopting an animal usually affects a person’s whole daily routine.
- Have they had a pet before? Amy Sherman, licensed therapist and author of Distress-Free Aging: A Boomer’s Guide to Creating a Fulfilled and Purposeful Life, thinks it’s best if the elderly person is an experienced owner. However, if they are open to a new and rewarding commitment, then first-timers can still make great owners.
- Does the senior have any disabilities or functional limitations? Dogs can be wonderful companions who encourage a senior to walk and talk to others. But dogs can be a challenge for individuals with limited mobility. If taking a dog outside and exercising it is too trying, lower-maintenance animals like cats and birds may be preferable.
- Would a therapeutic or emotional support animal be beneficial? If a person is very infirm or impaired, they may be a candidate for a specially trained therapy dog to help them function both at home and while on outings.
- What age pet would be best? A puppy or kitten may not be ideal for elderly owners because of the intensive care and training they require. Furthermore, young pets may outlive their owners. It’s important to consider that some animals like birds have especially long life spans. On the other hand, a senior pet may have its own physical limitations and illnesses but they are usually well trained already.
- What temperament would be a good fit for the senior? It is very important to research different breeds’ characteristics and interact with prospective adoptees to get a feel for their energy levels and personality. “Many older people might think they’d do better with a Jack Russell Terrier because it’s a small breed, but they are very, very, very high energy and require a great deal of effort and commitment,” says Susan Daffron, author of Happy Hound: Develop a Great Relationship with Your Adopted Dog or Puppy. While there are some general truths about specific breeds, every animal is unique.
- Is the pet healthy? It’s important that any pet be examined by a professional prior to adoption. You don’t want to compromise an older person’s immune system since some pets carry diseases. Unhealthy pets can be difficult for seniors to handle both emotionally and financially.
- One pet or two? While multiple pets can keep each other company, that may not be a good idea for an older person. Two animals may bond with each other rather than with their owner.
- Are finances an issue? Pets are a significant long-term financial commitment. A small puppy can rack up more than $810 for food, medical care, toys and grooming just in its first year. A low-maintenance animal like a fish is less expensive, coming in at about $235, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Be sure to carefully consider a senior’s current budget before taking home any animal.
- Is there a backup plan in place for the pet? It isn’t pleasant to think about, but owners must plan for the unexpected for their pets, too. If a senior had to go to the hospital, spend time in a short-term rehabilitation facility, move to a long-term care community or even passes away, what would happen to their animal(s)? Our golden years can be very unpredictable, so it’s important to have a contingency plan in place for our furry and feathered friends before an emergency strikes. Without one, beloved animals may wind up back in a shelter.
Peace & Harmony ~ Cheryl
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