Many seniors across the country face difficulties with depression, isolation, and loneliness. As people age it becomes harder to get out to meet new people, or have the energy to do favorite activities and hobbies. The numbers of seniors dealing with these issues continues to rise as more individuals choose to remain in their own homes rather than move to an assisted living facility.
One thing that has been proven to help stave off feelings of depression and isolation is regular companionship, whether it is with a person, or an animal. Seniors who live at home spend a lot of their time by themselves, and the addition of an appropriate and manageable pet can do wonders for their mental health and stability. For some people, just having a fish to look at and feed every day can boost their spirits tremendously.
What kind of pet is appropriate?
If you are searching for a pet for your elderly loved one, the first thing you should take into consideration is whether or not they want the responsibility associated with a pet. You should never surprise your loved ones with a pet, always make sure they are on board before bringing an animal into their home. There are varying levels of responsibility for different animals, and in many cases you can find a happy medium for your loved one. For instance, a dog may be too much work for them if they have trouble with mobility, but a cat might be a perfect companion.
Small mammals, like guinea pigs or rabbits, can make good pets for seniors as well depending on their temperament. Small animals that enjoy being held and cuddled are great for boosting spirits and giving a sense of companionship. Cats are probably one of the better options for seniors, as they do their own thing for the most part where care is concerned, and only require feeding and cleaning the litter box.
Certain reptiles can also make great pets for seniors, though they require a bit more set up and attention to make sure their environment is suitable. Bearded dragons are very docile and enjoy being held, but they do require the owner to feed them live crickets. In addition, ball pythons and corn snakes are also incredibly docile and great for handling, but as predators, require either frozen/thawed or live rats for food. If your loved one is more adventurous, a reptile may be the perfect pet for them.
Making Sure Care Needs are Met
Before getting any pet, you need to sit down with your loved one and make sure they are able to perform any and all care tasks that would be associated with keeping that animal healthy. If they have trouble with mobility, you might not want an energetic animal that’s going to need lots of walking. If they have trouble with memory you might want some sort of automatic feeding device. If they have trouble bending over, you might need to invest in an automatic clean litter box. There are plenty of products out there that help with almost every aspect of pet ownership, but it’s important that your loved one is healthy enough to manage without those things, just in case.
In some cases, your loved one may have an in-home senior care company, like Seniors Helping Seniors, who sends a caregiver on a regular basis to come check in with them. In these situations you can ask the caregiver to make sure that the pets are being taken care of when they come in to check on your loved one.
Finding the Perfect Fit
If you and your elderly loved one have talked about pet ownership and decided that it’s a good idea for them, all that’s left is picking out the perfect pet. For some pets, like snakes or rabbits, you might need to find a specific breeder in your area, since animals from the pet store can develop behavioral issues from poor care that can make taking care of them much more difficult. But for cats, dogs, or other small mammals, the local animal shelter is your best bet. They’ll be able to help you find an animal with the temperament you’re looking for, and they’ll know more about the specific animals that they have than a pet store clerk would. That way they can let you know if there are any red flags or existing behaviors that your loved one wouldn’t be able to handle.
It can be tough to take care of your aging loved ones, and it’s always difficult to make sure they are in good mental health. Companionship has many benefits and goes a long way towards making seniors feel active, needed, and loved. If you think your loved one is struggling with the mental burden of living alone, consider talking with them about adopting a pet. It could do wonders for their quality of life.