A senior woman hugs her dog. Keeping your pet as you age is proven to make us happier and healthier.

Senior Home Safety: Keeping Your Pet While You Age in Place

Bethesda Health | September 17, 2019

Though they cannot speak a word, pets can communicate volumes to their owners. They express unconditional loyalty, love, curiosity, and energy. They demonstrate every emotion from bounding joy to a tranquil and confident acceptance of us without judgment. Perhaps that is why 85 million families own a pet, according to the National Pet Owners Survey for 2017-2018.

So how can a senior adult who still lives in his or her home (called aging in place) continue to care for a pet? Keeping your pet while you age in place can be difficult if you’ve started to experience some of the physical and cognitive challenges of growing older.

Benefits of Having Pets

The physical, mental, and emotional benefits that seniors receive as a result of interactions with their pets have been well documented. Studies show that seniors who care for pets take better care of themselves, with the following results:

Hazards of Keeping a Pet While You Age in Place

Despite the benefits, keeping a pet can create some hazards for senior adults. For example, seniors should watch for the following safety hazards related to owning a pet:

Safety for Seniors and Pets

Seniors and family caregivers can take many steps to make the home safer for senior adults with pets. Promptly clean up spills from food and water bowls. Clear walkways, hallways, and stairs of pet toys. Have a specific place where leashes and other pet equipment is kept out of the way. In addition, the senior will be less likely to fall if they sit down before bending over for their pet.

If a senior adult wants a new pet, the relationship will generally last longer and be safer by selecting a pet that has the proper size, temperament, and care needs that fit the home and the abilities of the senior. Choosing the right companion has a big impact on keeping your pet as you age.

For example, cats are generally calmer than dogs. Many love to cuddle, and they are small and light enough to lift if needed. While cats are more into peace and quiet, dogs are more energetic, like to be walked, and can provide a sense of security. Small dogs can be a tripping hazard and large dogs may be too strong to handle safely. An older dog may be a great option for a senior to adopt as they usually enjoy fitting their activity level to the people around them.

What if You Need Help?

There are many options to assist senior adults facing decreasing strength, mobility, and stamina. Financial assistance may also be available to seniors to help with pet costs.

The Humane Society of the United States provides a list of national and state resources to help people afford their pets.

The list includes:

Bethesda has a number of programs in place to support seniors aging in place. Contact us to learn more about our Care Management and Senior Support Solutions programs, and how they can help you or your senior loved one remain independent for longer.

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