For an elderly parent living on their own, the perfect pet can truly be their best friend. Countless studies have shown animals promote a sense of calm and help ease loneliness and stress for seniors.
Pets make lovely companions, but they do require care and it's important that they’re a good match for their human partners. Here are a few tips when considering a furry friend for a senior family member.
1. Consider a Rescue
There are so many animals in need of a loving home so check with local shelters and rescue groups and see if they can help on your quest. Adopting from one of these agencies is a win-win: it will bring joy to your elderly parent and the rescued animal will go from cage to paradise.
2. Opt for an Adult Pet
With a mature animal, it’s already past the rambunctious baby stage. You can also get an idea of their temperament, health history and any other special needs. Finding an animal that matches a person’s energy and activity level is key for the happiness of both the pet and their new owner.
3. Ask the Right Questions
With a Once you've decided to get a pet, it's important to gather as much information as possible about the animal to ensure a perfect match. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Grooming Required?
Some cats and dogs have coats that require special attention. Beyond brushing, some need regular trips to the groomers to keep coats from becoming a tangled mess. This can be costly and a lot of work for seniors to manage.
- Special Veterinary Care?
Like people, some animals require special medical supplies and frequent vet visits. These special needs make the animal no less loveable and affectionate but it can be time consuming and costly. It's important to have an idea of a new pet's veterinary needs in advance.
- House Trained?
Adult pets are often trained already. Finding out if an animal requires special attention and potty training will help avoid messy and demanding surprises later.
Some rescue dogs may already have been trained to walk on leash, sit, stay and not jump up or bark, whereas others may require extra training and care to live calm, gentle and happy lives.
e. Good with Kids?
Some animals are fine around adults but are fearful or even aggressive toward children. If grandkids are visiting often you’ll want to be sure the pet you chose is calm and gentle with them.
4. When the Real Thing Isn't Possible
Sometimes a person with Alzheimer's has cognitively returned to a time when they still lived with a beloved pet. This is when a realistic stuffed animal might be the best option. While it may feel odd at first, these stand-ins should be treated like companions — since they are very real to your loved one.
5. Bring Pets to Visit
Sometimes owning a pet of any kind simply isn't an option. In these situations regular visits from the family dog or a neighbour’s cuddly cat can be great for easing tension and relieving stress.