One of the realities of senior caregiving is that we must plan ahead for the time when our loved ones are no longer able to manage their daily activities – and that includes caring for their pets. All too often, pets are overlooked until the last minute, when there’s a mad scramble to decide what to do with Fido or Fluffy. Too many dogs and cats in this situation are dropped off at shelters or even euthanized because there isn’t time to find them a new home.
Involve Seniors in Plans for Their Pets
The ideal time to plan for a pet’s future is while its owner is still able to help make decisions about its care going forward. The closer the senior is to having to give up their pet, the more proactive the family and caregivers need to be to find it a potential home. It may be difficult to broach the subject, but explain that your goal is to help your loved one have peace of mind by providing the pet with the best possible care.
Some things to consider:
- The best option may be a willing family member or friend who already has a good relationship with the pet. If none are available, ask around among people you trust to see if anyone can be ready to take over the pet’s care. Make sure the pet is well-behaved around children and other pets if these will be in the new home.
- Seniors with sufficient resources can establish a trust fund for the care of the pet. This could allow someone to adopt the pet who may not otherwise be willing or able to do so.
- If a new home can’t be found right away, ask a responsible person to foster the animal until a permanent home can be selected.
- If the animal is a purebred, look for a rescue organization for that breed. They generally foster pets in homes and will be choosy about finding it a new home. The AKC maintains a list of dog breed rescues on its website.
- Only take the pet to a shelter as last resort. Many pets belonging to seniors are elderly themselves and are not likely to be adopted from a shelter.
An Adjustment Period: Next Steps
After a new home is found, take steps to help the pet, as well as the senior who is relinquishing it, adjust to the new situation. Have the prospective adopter visit the pet in its current home and perhaps even take it on a few overnight visits before taking it home permanently. The new owner should follow the pet’s previous routine as much as possible and should continue to use the pet’s familiar food, dishes, bed and toys.
Realize that the pet, especially if it is older, may have a difficult period of adjustment to its new home and routine. Be compassionate in helping the animal adjust to new household routines and rules.
At the same time, be aware that the senior may have a hard time adjusting to their new reality, as well. Remind them that they have done the best thing for their pet. Reassure them that the animal is healthy and well cared for. A little extra love shown to both senior and pet can help ease the transition for everyone.
Have you made a plan for your loved one’s pets? Do you also care for their dog or cat when looking after them? What about plans for your pet after a loved one passes on? If you have any tips you’d like to share, we’d love it if you did in the comments below.
Author bio: Cynthia Helzel is a freelance writer specializing in copywriting and content creation for senior care businesses and organizations.