A recent poll by Preeti Malani, M.D found some interesting facts about pet ownership. Pets included dogs, cats, birds, fish, and other types of pets. The physical and mental benefits were evident as has been indicated by other studies, however this study found some interesting information that families as well as an elderly person should consider when deciding if it is a good idea for an elderly family member to have a pet.
We know that the positive reasons to have a pet include but are not limited to:
- Social connections
- Source of enjoyment
- Feeling of being needed and loved
Some of the negatives to consider are:
- Difficulty to travel
- Enjoying activities outside the home
- Putting pet’s needs ahead of their own health needs
- The cost of pet health care, especially for older pets
- Owner health issues that make keeping a pet difficult
- Owner or other family member’s allergies to the pet
- A need to move into a facility that does not allow pets
- The risk of falling because of a pet
In some cases family support will allow an elderly person to keep a pet. If the family agrees to take the pet and care for it if the elderly person must move to a care facility, that will ease the mind of the pet owner and allow them to keep the pet as long as possible.
If the pet owner can arrange for someone to care for a pet while on vacation, this will solve the vacation issue. The pet owner in most cases will be home more than they are away so watching a pet for them may not be a huge task.
If the pet lover cannot have a pet due to financial reasons, they may volunteer at a local shelter or offer to pet sit for friends. This will give them some quality time with pets without the expense. Another consideration if the person likes birds, is to feed the wild birds. A feeder near a window can be a source of joy with little responsibility. Many people enjoy bird-watching which is a year-round activity.
Often if the family will “think outside of the box” a happy solution can be found for whatever difficulties may be present.