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Live-in Care: Can the Elderly Look After Their Pets?

Most of us will acknowledge what a great addition a much-loved pet is to our household and the multiple benefits they bring, particularly to older people. However, if you have an elderly relative who is starting to struggle with caring for their pet, you may be wondering what resources there are that may be able to help take the strain.

Separation

One of the things that many older people find most upsetting when moving into a care home is the fact that they are not allowed to bring their dog, cat or other beloved pet with them. However, choose an at-home care package, and the care recipient can stay in the familiar surroundings of their own home, with companion care 24-hours a day.

Multiple Benefits

Most people accept that the positives of caring for a pet outweigh any negatives, particularly for older people. Owning a cat or dog, or indeed any animal that is dependent on human care, brings with it multiple benefits, including lower blood pressure, less stress and anxiety, higher levels of social interaction and activity and an overall sense of being needed.

Quality of Life

On top of these, owning a pet can also boost the older person’s quality of life, by making them feel less lonely, and it can raise their self-esteem and give them a sense of purpose. In the simplest terms, a dog or cat is someone to talk to and care for, at a stage in life when many older people may have suffered the loss of their spouse and may feel the loneliness of an empty house.

Sense of Purpose

Pets bring a real sense of purpose into the lives of elderly people, especially as they reach the time of life when they are becoming more dependent on help from family, friends or designated carers. Pets can be a valuable distraction from poor health and, in the case of a canine companion, can provide the person with the motivation they may need to get out and about, thereby sidestepping a decline into a more sedentary lifestyle.

More Than Just a ‘Pet’

Often, a cat or dog may be as close to family as an older person has, especially if their loved ones live far away. That is why it is so vital to keep in mind that the loss of a pet companion may be the hardest thing that someone has to bear when faced with going into a care home.

Mikis’ care story

In this short video, Nick and Maro explain their reasons for choosing Elder live-in care. They discuss how live-in care has allowed Nick’s father Mikis to stay independent in his own home while making a new friend at the same time.

Care at Home and Animals

However, if you have decided that the best fit for your older relative will be companion care at home, it should be possible for their pets to stay too. A companion carer may be happy to take on the care of the pet as well, but if that’s not the case, there are lots of options to consider.

These days, day care for dogs is commonly available in almost all parts of the UK. Alternatively, you could ask around the neighbourhood to see if there is a teenager who might be pleased to take on dog-walking or cat-litter changing duties for example, in return for a token payment.

Many vets will make house calls on request if the client is elderly. Luckily, most at-home carers will be happy to include pet care and activities as part of the care services that they offer, so they will be able to help with dog walking and trips to the vet, for example.

If your relative is looking for a new pet, try and persuade them to go for an older animal. Puppies and kittens are adorable, but they can be a lot of work, and therefore not suitable for older people who may already be struggling with day-to-day activities.

Shop Online

When it comes to shopping for pet supplies, it is a good idea to bulk-buy on the internet, and have heavy items such as dog food delivered straight to the door. This frees up time for your relative to spend with their elderly care companion, pursuing hobbies or visiting friends and family, rather than worrying about getting to the pet shop or supermarket.

Because pet ownership is so associated with improved mental health in the elderly, at-home care that allows your relative to remain with their beloved pet is an excellent option to consider. Whether your older parent requires dementia care or just needs someone to help them with the tasks associated with everyday life, staying in familiar surroundings with 24-hour care, and retaining the companionship of their beloved pet, could be the best of all possible worlds.

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"Knowing how happy someone is with their care package makes all the hard work worthwhile!"

Katherine, Care Professional at Elder

Katherine Elder Carer

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