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Helping Older Relatives Keep Their Pets

Seniors and DogsAlmost 70 percent of homes in the U.S. have a pet, that's equivalent to around 85 million households. As a nation of animal lovers, many of us understand the pleasure of owning a pet, especially baby boomers who represent 37 percent of pet owners in America. Pets keep us busy and active and can even boost our health. But what can you do to help support your senior loved one so they can keep their beloved pet at home with them for as long as possible?

Pets Are Good for Our Health

For anyone who has ever lived with a pet, you will understand just how much pleasure, love and companionship a pet can bring to your life. But a furry companion can also protect you and your loved ones from heart disease and actually help them to live longer. Owning a pet can be both mentally and physically beneficial for people of any age, but especially older people. Just spending a brief time with an animal sets of a chemical reaction in the brain. This reduces cortisol, known as the fight-or-flight hormone. It also increases serotonin, our feel-good hormone. This, in turn, will immediately lower stress levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. Prolonged contact with a pet can even lower cholesterol, fight depression and protect against heart disease.

Helping Seniors Care for Their Pet

While the benefits of owning a pet for seniors are considerable, you need to remember that owning and caring for a pet comes with increasing challenges as people get older. Some seniors may experience a reduction in their mobility, problems with their memory and have more of a restricted income since retiring. To enable seniors to continue to enjoy having their pet at home, it’s imperative that they have a strong support system to help them ensure that their pet gets good quality care.  

Provide Day-to-Day assistance

It’s important that you make sure that daily help is made available. This can be as simple as stopping by regularly to check on both senior and pet, to make sure both are happy and well. You can also look into taking advantage of the Meals on Wheels Loves Pets Grant Program which provides a meal delivery service for both seniors and their pets.

Consider the Pets Well-being

While it’s perfectly normal for dogs to bark, those who are bored, lonely or inactive will often bark excessively. However, excessive barking can be distressing for the dog, and can also be stressful for the neighbors. The good news is, there are ways to teach your dog not to bark with innovative devices like dog silencers. These tech gadgets listen for barking and automatically respond with high-pitched ultrasonic waves, training the dog not to bark when unnecessary.

Another way to keep your dog from barking is by ensuring the dog is getting regular exercise and stimulation. Organize a schedule for family members to stop by to play with the dog and take them on a long walk. Keeping a dog well-exercised and stimulated is important for their well-being and it may help to curb some of the barking. If the dog continues to bark excessively and it’s becoming a problem, then you may need to look into what other options are available such as retraining the dog by using a dog whistle or barking silencer.

Planning for The Future

While it may be a difficult subject for families to discuss, it’s important that you confront the issue of what happens if the pet should outlive their senior owner. Likewise, you’ll need to consider what will happen if the senior can no longer care for their pet. It’s important for the well-being of the pet, and peace of mind for their senior owner, that you explore the options available. Will you adopt the pet, or is there a friend who would be happy to take them on? It’s important to plan ahead to help avoid having to bring the pet to a shelter if the time comes to rehome the pet.

Sharing their home with a pet offers seniors a great emotional and physical health boost. But caring for a pet properly takes time and effort and can become harder as a person gets older. It’s important that there’s a supportive family network to support seniors and ensure the pet is well looked after now and in the future.

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