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The benefits of owning a pet are well documented. Dogs and cats provide comfort, love and companionship, especially as people grow older and have a quiet, empty nest back home. Pets provide an incredible mental health boost and can help lower symptoms of anxiety and depression. Best of all, people don’t have to feel alone or isolated.

Not only do pets offer emotional benefits but also physical ones. People who have dogs tend to get outdoors more often, which means fresh air and Vitamin D. Studies even show that pets can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, speed up recovery times and decrease pain.

Is Your Parent Ready for a Pet?

With so many benefits to owning a pet, you might have one foot out the door already. But not so fast! If your senior loved one has been asking for a pet to keep them company, you need to take several things into consideration. Just because a small kitten from the local shelter needs a home doesn’t mean that your loved one is ready to handle the responsibility.

Answer these questions as honestly as possible.

  • Can your parent provide enough exercise and stimulation for their new pet?
  • Does your parent have a fenced in yard for a dog to run around in? How about their other facilities? Is their home conducive to a pet?
  • Are there any limitations that your parent has, such as physical impairments, diminished mental capacity or an inadequate living environment?
  • Can your parent afford to care for a new pet? Aside from the basics (i.e., food, toys, supplies), also consider medical expenses and training.
  • How has your parent done with pets in the past? Did they enjoy a cat or dog, or were they annoyed with one?
  • Do you have plans for the pet if your parent gets sick, dies or needs to be moved to an assisted living facility?

Hopefully these questions will provide you with more insight as to whether or not a pet is something that will benefit your loved one.

When Your Parent Wants a Pet, But You’re Not Sure

Remember, there are lots of different animals to choose from that offer similar benefits to a dog or cat. If a puppy is too difficult for your parent to care for, consider a bunny, bird or fish instead. Some seniors even thrive off caring for a plant.

If you decide that your loved one is not in a position to take on an animal, here are some suggestions of things you can do:

  • Bring your parent over to your home or a neighbor’s home to visit a pet. You can make a big difference for someone else by offering to walk their dog or play with their kitten for a few hours. 
  • Volunteer with your parent at an organization that works with animals. It can be as simple as bringing canned food to homeless pets, taking dogs for walks or cleaning cages.
  • Offer to dog sit. With websites like Care.com, it’s easy to create a profile and offer pet sitting services to local pet owners. You’ll need to help your parent with this, of course, but it will be extra money for them and a sense of purpose.

And remember, when a pet cannot provide enough support and companionship, Family Private Care is here to help your loved one remain in their residence. Nurse’s aides and companions are available to help – anywhere from 4 hours per day to 24/7. Give us a call to learn more!