Animal companions can provide life-changing or even life-saving assistance to older adults in many different ways. From a mental health perspective, pet ownership can help elderly individuals ward off the effects of loneliness and depression. Some animals play a much more involved role in the well-being of seniors, such as guide dogs, mobility animals, or hearing animals. Pets also give seniors a sense of structure, filling their lives with daily activities such as walking, feeding, and playing.
But a pet can also be a source of stress – especially when seniors become physically unable to properly care for their animal. The sense of accomplishment normally associated with looking after a pet can easily turn when seniors realize that their animal is malnourished, diseased, or even deceased. If your senior is having a hard time providing proper care for a beloved pet, it makes sense to find a pet care service to assist them.
Fortunately, Seasons is here to help. In this guide, we’ll cover a range of senior pet care options, including ways to help low-income senior citizens meet pet needs. You can also visit our Resource Hub for even more information on pet care providers near you. You can use this free online database to find the most cost-effective and effective solutions for your senior’s needs.
Pet care for seniors – keeping seniors and animal companions united
What can pet care services do for seniors?
Pet care services assist seniors in looking after and maintaining the health of their pets. Services cater to pet needs like veterinary care, dog-walking, litter box cleanup, feeding, and grooming. It might also involve the installation of pet-friendly devices like door flaps, automatic pet food dispensers, and others. In short, pet care services for seniors help keep elderly loved ones and their companion animals together.
What happens when seniors struggle with pet care?
If your senior is no longer capable of providing adequate care for a pet, it can quickly spiral out of control. One of the most obvious potential consequences is the death or loss of an animal. This can occur for a variety of reasons related to inadequate care, including:
- Disease due to unhygienic conditions
- Accidents caused by lack of supervision
- Exposure to extreme heat for prolonged periods
- Being confined in a small area for too long
- Animals that escape and become lost
Another potential consequence of inadequate pet care is the removal of animals from a senior’s home into animal shelters. This is often a heartbreaking and shameful experience for elderly individuals, whether they realize they can’t keep a pet or it is taken by authorities. Animal welfare service organizations take animal neglect very seriously, and they will act swiftly if they believe that an animal is living in unsafe conditions. In extreme cases, seniors could even face criminal charges for animal neglect or abuse.
In addition, inadequate care may cause pets to develop costly and traumatic medical conditions. By making sure pets get the care they need as soon as possible, you can keep your senior’s animal healthy and avoid expensive vet bills.
Although an animal’s well-being is undoubtedly important, you also have to consider the safety of your senior. The truth is that many older adults have fallen while caring for their pets. These falls can lead to serious health care concerns for seniors, and sometimes they prove fatal. The CDC reports that 36 million falls occur each year. Hip fractures are particularly serious, and 95% of these injuries are caused by falls. A total of 32,000 deaths are caused by falls each year.
Why would my senior need pet care services?
A senior might be unable to care for their pet for a number of reasons. The most obvious causes are disabilities and physical limitations. Meeting pet needs entails a lot of bending, lifting, can opening, water carrying, and other physical tasks. The movements required may be especially difficult if your senior has issues such as arthritis or hip pain.
Sometimes, physical limitations are only temporary. For example, your senior might be unable to care for a pet while sick or recovering from surgery. In this situation, pet care services can be provided at home for a few weeks or months. This keeps your senior with their animal companion throughout the healing process. According to the Mayo Clinic, pets can help patients deal with physical or emotional pain.
Your senior may also be unable to care for a pet due to cognitive issues. Even young pet owners can sometimes forget to feed or walk their animals. These memory issues tend to become more common as we age, especially when seniors begin to struggle with Alzheimer’s or dementia. A pet care service provider can ensure that animals are always fed, watered, and exercised on time.
What are some signs I should seek pet care for seniors?
There are a number of signs that clearly show pet care is necessary for seniors. These include:
- Mangy or unkempt-looking animals
- Animals that seem sick or malnourished
- Animals that are considerably overweight
- Unpleasant animal odors in the home
- Feces or urine messes in the home
- Animals that are constantly suffering accidents or getting lost
- Animals suffering symptoms of heat exhaustion or extreme thirst
- Confined animals
- Anything that you believe to be animal neglect or abuse
- Your senior expresses a lack of confidence in their own pet care abilities
Questions to ask yourself as you consider pet care for seniors
- How much time do I spend each week taking care of my senior’s pet?
- Is my senior’s dog powerful enough to pull and drag my senior on a leash?
- Does the pet have a habit of getting caught under my senior’s feet?
- Is my senior suffering from any debilitating physical conditions, such as arthritis or recent hip fractures?
- Is my senior suffering from memory issues?
- How would my senior feel if they lost their animal? How much emotional and psychological damage would that cause?
- Does my care plan ensure my senior’s pet is safe and provided for?
What services are provided by pet care professionals?
Dog-walking is one of the most helpful pet care services for seniors. As many dog owners are aware, they need regular exercise. Even small dogs benefit tremendously from having the chance to get outside, smell their surroundings, and move around. PetMD reports that when a dog misses out on regular walks, they can develop a range of health issues, such as:
- Joint issues
- Shorter lifespan
Many seniors simply allow their dogs to roam in their backyards. Although this is better than keeping them confined indoors, it can still result in a general lack of exercise, leading to bored, depressed canines.
A professional dog walker can arrive at your senior’s home, take their pet on a long, interesting walk, and return the animal back home. Some dog walkers take multiple dogs out on excursions at the same time, giving your senior’s pooch a chance to socialize and interact with other animals.
Installation of pet-friendly features
Some service providers suggest or implement senior and pet-friendly features around the house to make caring for animals easier. For example, a cat flap allows an animal to come and go as they please, saving your senior from frequent trips back and forth from the door. Food dispensers can also make pet care much more convenient, as your senior will no longer have to bend down, open cans, and potentially slip on chunks of food. A pet care service provider or a family caregiver can easily refill the food dispenser when it gets low. Water fountains provide pets with plenty of fresh, clean water without needing to be regularly refilled. An automatic litter box cleaner makes maintenance easier for cat owners. These modifications improve the level of care that seniors with physical limitations or disabilities can give to their pets.
Temporary pet care services
Pet care services are particularly helpful on a temporary basis when seniors are recovering from surgery or other medical issues. Kennels are helpful as well, but sitters and walkers travel to your senior’s home on a regular basis and make sure that pet needs are met. This gives pets a chance to provide important emotional support as seniors heal.
Helping seniors choose manageable and appropriate pets
Other pet service providers help seniors choose pets that match their needs and abilities. For example, some seniors might need to enlist the help of a guide dog. Others may need companion animals primarily for emotional support. Perhaps your senior has recently lost their animal, and they need a new pet that is easier to take care of. Professionals can recommend options like fish tanks or hamsters that are less labor-intensive.
Providing they are young and intelligent enough, some pets can be trained to make it easier for seniors to care for them. For example, a cat can be trained to use a human toilet, negating the need for litter trays in the future. Animals can also be trained to alert family members if your senior suffers an emergency, such as a fall. A “life alert” button can be pressed by a dog or cat, causing first responders to quickly arrive on the scene. Pet food dispensers can be tricky for pets to understand at first, and special training may be required before an animal can reliably use this device without assistance.
Delivery of pet supplies
Often, seniors are perfectly capable of feeding and watering their pets without assistance – but they need a little help getting supplies. For example, your senior may no longer have access to a vehicle. In this situation, delivery services can drop off pet food and other items.
Grooming is also helpful for seniors, as this relatively straightforward service can keep animals clean and hygienic. Grooming is especially important if your senior has a weak immune system or respiratory issues. Animals that are not regularly cleaned could develop diseases and parasites that may spread and infect your senior. In addition, hair and dandruff in the air can make respiratory issues worse.
Your senior may also need to take their pet to the vet from time to time, but mobile veterinary hospitals offer an easier option. A mobile veterinary practice can come to your senior’s home to assess and treat animals.
Questions about pet care for seniors
What questions should I ask pet care providers?
- How long have you been working with animals?
- How can you make it easier for my senior to care for their pet?
- What kind of qualifications, training, or certifications do you have?
Can pet care help seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Pets have been playing a vital role in the development of innovative new senior care services for Alzheimer’s and dementia. So-called “dementia dogs” help seniors with a wide range of tasks, including answering the doorbell, fetching medicine, responding to timers, dressing, and much more.
These companion animals for dementia can also prevent seniors from wandering out of their homes. If the senior does manage to get lost, these specially-trained dogs can lead them back to their homes or seek help. GPS devices are attached to the collars of these service dogs, making tracking the senior easier. Of course, these dogs must be specially trained. A pet care service provider can help your senior get the help they need from one of these animals.
Talking about pet care for seniors
How to approach the topic of pet care with your senior
Talking about pet care assistance with a senior could be challenging – especially if your loved one is convinced that they are a perfectly capable owner. Some pet owners take offense to questions about their pet care abilities, and seniors are no exception. Your elderly loved one may also be struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, and denial as they come to grips with the reality of the situation.
It’s always a good idea to discuss any kind of assistance with care and consideration. In order to broach the subject in an effective and subtle manner, consider asking these questions:
Questions to help a senior consider pet care services
- Could your pet use more exercise?
- You work so hard to take care of your pet. Wouldn’t you like some help?
- You’ve earned the right to let someone else take care of the litter tray – don’t you think?
- There are so many ways to make it easier to take care of your pet. Would you like to explore some of these options?
- Are you concerned your pet could get sick or be taken away if they don’t get the care they need?
Paying for pet care services
How much does pet care cost?
Many senior citizens live on a fixed income, so the costs of pet care are a major consideration. And since there are so many kinds of pet care services, pricing varies greatly. Some temporary pet-sitting or dog walking after surgery doesn’t require someone with the same skills a groomer has. The breadth of service options and training required for providers to practice means you’ll want to consider which services are right for your senior before discussing pricing with them.
Can low-income seniors get help paying for pet care services?
Pet companionship may seem inaccessible for low-income senior citizens, especially if they need additional help to provide sufficient care for an animal. Medicare does not cover the cost of pet care, including service animals. In addition, no health insurance plan covers these costs – not even private plans.
Luckily there are several nonprofit organizations ready to assist low-income seniors and others interested in pet ownership. Pets for the Elderly covers veterinary fees and spay/neuter costs when seniors adopt from a Humane Society or other participating animal shelters. Meals on Wheels Loves Pets brings complimentary grooming and veterinary services to seniors along with the delivery of pet food and other supplies.
Seniors for Seniors offers older shelter animals to older adults at reduced pricing. These are just a few examples, and the Humane Society website keeps track of local options for those interested.
Another interesting option for senior citizens who want a pet is foster care. Seniors can sign up with animal shelters to provide temporary care to animals until they find their forever home. Under this arrangement, a senior isn’t stuck with an animal they can’t properly care for. If the situation isn’t right, the animal can go to another foster care family, and the senior can then try another pet. Also, seniors are often matched with older dogs and cats, who tend to need less exercise and can be easier to manage.
Some nonprofit organizations provide service animals to needy individuals free of charge under certain circumstances. You’ll need to contact these organizations to determine whether your senior qualifies for these programs. Options include the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. In addition, a senior could potentially use their disability benefits in order to pay for service animals and other support animals.
Veterans Benefits cover a range of expenses related to guide and service dogs. The VA may provide compensation for veterinary care, equipment, medications, dental procedures, vaccinations, prescribed food, and more. However, it does not cover normal food, treats, grooming, boarding, or other “routine expenses.”
How can I find pet care for seniors?
If you’ve been searching for pet care services for your senior, look no further than Seasons. Our Resource Hub makes it easier than ever to find affordable and reliable senior care options. This includes area pet care providers as well as home care services, senior transportation options, and much more. Check out the Resource Hub now to facilitate happier golden years for your senior.