Senior Pet Separation: How to Manage

  • What are the benefits of seniors having pets?

    Owning a pet can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pets also need care, including excerise and interaction, which will encourage seniors to take them for walks or play with the pet indoors.

    Pet care also requires the veterinary care and supplies, which will require the senior to visit stores and the vet’s clinic as well as interact with others concerning the pet’s welfare.

  • Are there pet-friendly assisted living facilities?

    There are many assisted living facilities and senior communities that are friendly to pets. Some may even offer assistance with pet care and transportation to and from the vet.

    Some nursing homes provide pet therapy for seniors that is supervised by trained volunteers and allows the seniors the benefits of having a pet without the burdens that may come with pet ownership.

  • When is pet separation necessary?

    Pet separation may be in the best interests of both the senior and the pet in cases where the pet isn’t receiving the best of care or if the pet is an emotional or physical burden on the senior.

    Separation often occurs when the senior needs to be moved into different housing. It’s often best if a family member or close friend can take the pet so that the senior can maintain a relationship with the pet while at the same time easing the burden on the senior.

Having a pet is a rewarding experience that many people of all ages enjoy. Pets provide comfort, purpose, companionship, and entertainment. For seniors, pet ownership can be especially beneficial in helping to minimize feelings of isolation and improving the quality of life.

Unfortunately, making a move to a skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility may alter the state of a senior’s relationship with their pet. Some facilities don’t allow pets or have rules about how pets must be handled. Before considering moving a loved one to a senior care facility, it’s important to understand how the move will impact the relationship with any pets.

Pet Benefits for Seniors

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Pets need to exercise and interact, which can encourage seniors to take the pet for walks or to play with the pet indoors. Pets also need veterinary care and supplies, which requires seniors to visit stores and veterinary clinics and interact with others concerning the pet’s welfare.

Pet Friendly Senior Living Communities

Many assisted living facilities and senior communities allow residents to have pets. This may be a desirable alternative to separating a senior from their beloved pet. Communities may offer assistance with pet care and even help to arrange in-home veterinary care.

Deteriorating Health Conditions and Pet Care

As seniors age and health deteriorates, pet care can become increasingly difficult. Pets may suffer as their owners struggle to clean up after messes, procure food and supplies, and attend veterinary appointments. Pets may also sense their owners’ pain and frustration, which could catalyze behavioral problems.

When Pet Separation Is Necessary

In some cases, pets and seniors may benefit from separation. Pets may not be receiving the best care and care may be an emotional and physical burden on seniors. This realization often occurs at a time when it is noticed that a senior needs more help with ADLs, so pet separation generally happens as the senior is moved.

If possible, having a family member or close friend take the pet can help the senior to maintain a relationship with the pet, while easing some of the burden. If it’s not possible to keep the pet close, surrendering the pet to a no-kill shelter may be the best option. Some shelters will provide updates regarding the pet’s adoption status and well being, upon request.

Pet Therapy at Skilled Nursing Facilities

Many skilled nursing facilities recognize the benefits of senior interaction with pets, so pet therapy is becoming increasingly common. Volunteers bring cats or dogs into the facility to interact with the residents. Volunteers are trained to supervise the interaction and only friendly and well trained dogs and cats are allowed to visit.

Finding the right senior living community for your loved one can help them continue to enjoy a valuable relationship with animals. This can help to avoid or minimize the impact of pet separation.