If your aging parent or loved one lives alone, having a dog, cat, or other pet to take care of could be a great idea. The pet could keep them company, and make them feel less lonely and if it can act as a “guard dog,” safer.
Even if your aging parent lives with you, their caregiver, a pet could be a good idea, because it gives them something to care for, and a sense of responsibility. Pets have a way of making things like depression and anxiety much easier to live with, and it is common knowledge that pets can decrease blood pressure as well.
Before you decide that a pet is a right choice for your senior, though, there are some things that you should ask yourselves. Here are two very important questions you should consider:
Is my loved one capable of taking care of a pet alone?
A pet might be a great companion, but it wouldn’t be any good for either your loved one or their pet if they can’t take care of it properly. Are you certain that your parent is well enough mentally and physically to keep up with the demands of pet care?
Can they remember to feed the dog on time, every day? Can they remember to make sure it has fresh water? Can they remember to let it out and back in when it needs to use the restroom? Are they strong enough to take the dog on a walk on a leash or carry the fishbowl to the sink to clean it by themselves?
If you can help with these things, that is great, but if your loved one is taking care of the pet completely on their own, you should make sure that they are capable of doing these things before you leave them alone with the animal.
Are you getting a pet for the right reasons?
Are you getting a pet for your loved one because they sincerely want a pet, or because you would feel safer if they had a guard dog? Do they want a pet to keep them company, or just because they think cats are cute? Are you getting them something to take care of just to keep them busy, or because you genuinely want them to be happy? It is important to consider why your loved one (and you) wants a pet because if you get one for the wrong reasons, the pet will suffer for it.
Another thing to consider is how much effort you personally will be putting into caring for the pet. You are already a caregiver for your loved one, do you want to be a caregiver for a new pet as well? If you do, that’s terrific! But this is still something important to think about beforehand because pets are a big responsibility. They can add a lot of joy to your life, but they can also keep everyone very busy!
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