The Importance of Pets and Planning for Care in the Future

Do you have a dog, cat, bird, or another animal? Most likely, these animals are a huge part of your life. They are your family. Many people consider their pets their best friends. As we age – this usually does not change. We continue to seek the affection of our pets. 

           Many seniors fight depression. They feel the loss of their children as they move away. They may lose their spouses or friends to diseases or old age. Pets often fill the gap. It can be wonderful to find joy and bring some life back to a senior through the joy of an animal. 

           However – there may come a time when these seniors also need care. What happens when this senior and their pet when the senior needs to move into a long-term care facility? Planning is essential so that both the pet and the senior are cared for and happy. 

           It is not something we often think of – but if a senior is making plans about care, it is also essential to plan for the care of that pet in the future. Some personal care homes will allow seniors to have small pets. If this is something which will fit the need of the senior, then it is an avenue worth exploring. Make a list of those possibilities. If the senior should end up being hospitalized, a power of attorney should know what the senior wishes to happen with the pet. 

           There may be a time that the senior has to give the pet up. Planning with a family member or a neighbor who may agree to care for this pet and keep it safe may bring comfort to the senior. This friend to the pet may even agree to spend some time with the pet beforehand so that the pet is comfortable. 

           Many long-term care facilities take into account that seniors appreciate the company of a pet. Although it would never be possible to have everyone’s pet live in the LTC facility, most facilities make some provisions to ensure interactions with pets. 

           Some long-term care homes have pet therapy where pets come to visit. Other homes have pets that reside with the residents. Most long-term care homes will let the resident’s family and friends visit with their pets with a pet pass. It’s a great way to keep in contact with your pet! 

           Whatever option you choose – it is vital to speak to seniors early on and make a plan regarding their pets. Having a well thought out plan will help keep both the senior and their pet safe and happy! For more ideas and tips for seniors, contact Nicole Lipinski, RN, MS, ADC-MC, CDP, Director of Healthy Aging at 570-344-6177 ext. 1113 nlipinski@jhep.org.