Seniors are living independently in their homes for longer than ever these days, and sometimes their best friend and constant companion really is a dog or cat. A study in the Journal of American Geriatrics said that seniors living independently who have pets tend to have better physical and mental well-being than those who don’t. They have shorter hospital stays and lower healthcare costs than seniors with no pets, and they are more active and are better at coping with stress.
Yet aging issues can make it difficult for seniors to keep their pets healthy the way they once did. Caregivers for seniors need a good understanding of resources available to help, and to have a realistic assessment of the situation.
A growing number of groups around the country help through outreach mostly through organizations that seniors already use to help them assist seniors who are already enrolled in other senior assistance programs with help for their pets, too. For example, the Pet Food Pantry in Orlando, FL, run by the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, delivers packages of pet food to seniors and their pets who are on fixed income, allowing the seniors to be sure that their pets are getting better nutrition than table scraps. They also provide basic annual vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries. Since pets are sometimes a senior’s sole companionship, they may not have anyone to take care of their beloved companions if the senior becomes incapacitated. The group also includes an option that Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando will care for the senior’s pet if the senior becomes incapacitated.
How can you find a group like this in your area? You probably haven’t heard of them even if they are there, so you may have to ask around. Since this type of group usually partners with groups that provide services to seniors, try contacting your area’s county senior programs, church senior programs, meals on wheels, and even ask your veterinarian. You can also contact your local hospital to find out who their social workers refer to at discharge.
With all the benefits that pets can bring to seniors, let’s help them be sure they can spend their golden years together.