We love the company of our pets and can’t imagine being without them. Imagine how a Senior Citizen feels when the time comes to relocate to an assisted living facility. The prospect of losing the companionship of a pet can be traumatizing, especially if the Senior is single or widowed. It also adds another loss to their list and creates added anguish when worrying about the animal if it is taken away.
The other side of this situation is the trauma to the pet. Yes, as owners get older, their standard of pet care often diminishes, which can affect the pet. Still, that doesn’t negate the emotional results of a pet/owner separation.
Studies show that a Senior’s regular contact with an animal is highly beneficial. The relationship lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduces depression, boredom and feelings of hopelessness and gives the owner a sense of purpose in caring for another living thing. Plus, health improves, which lowers medical needs, and adds more physical activity to a Senior’s life.
According to Michelle Cobey, spokesperson for the Delta Society, a Bellevue Washington volunteer organization, “Many homes allow pets on the premises. But sometimes it can be difficult to manage without help from the staff or volunteer case workers.”
There may also be complications if the animal is not well socialized.
There are great alternatives to this dilemma. Firstly, the Senior’s family can bring the pet to visit the facility on a regular basis. Also, volunteer organizations such as the Delta Society’s Pets On Wheels can bring in therapy dogs to visit.
Here’s an even better idea: if the Senior can keep the pet in a facility, a local dog walking and pet sitting service can visit daily to help take care of the pet!
Darren Burleson, co-owner of The Pawfessionals Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters in Dallas, has several assisted living clients that he visits regularly to clean up after cats and to walk dogs for Seniors. He experiences the incredible bond Seniors and pets have and how important it is to try to maintain the relationship.
“The interaction and bond a pet has with their Senior owner is heartwarming and I get to see first-hand how healthy and beneficial it is for both the owner and the pet to have this relationship,” says Darren. “I love my pets and couldn’t imagine being separated from them. I can only imagine how my Senior clients would feel if that separation occurred.”
So, with proper support and assistance, elderly loved ones can continue the special bond they have with their pet and receive the love, motivation and happiness they deserve.
– Kassira McKee