Most of us see our pets as part of the family. They go on vacation with us, they have their own spot in the house where they’re most often found napping and they prove their loyalty to us on a daily basis. For many families, elderly and pets are often a beautiful match and can offer many benefits, including lowering their stress levels.
The Elderly and Pets
“A new pet can stimulate someone to read up on an animal or breed, which can be very mentally stimulating and important at that age,” says Dr. Katharine Hillestad, a veterinarian with the office of Doctors Foster and Smith. This, she explains is just a few of the reasons elderly people do better, especially when they otherwise live alone. “Dogs – and other pets – live very much in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow. And tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. By having an animal with that sense of now, it tends to rub off on people,” says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey psychotherapist.
Along with easing stress levels, elderly pet owners are less likely to become depressed. They’re our loyal companions and as any dog owner will tell you, they have a sense of how their owners are feeling and often act accordingly – with compassion and love.
Beneficial for Memory
Even better are the number of studies now being released that show how pets can actually help seniors recall memories from decades earlier. The reasoning is that they distract their owners from worrying about physical problems, fears for the future, and aging in general.
But how do you know if your elderly loved one is actually willing or able to take on the responsibilities associated with owning a pet? Those who have had pets in the past often fare well when introduced to a new four-legged family member. On the other hand, if your loved one is showing advanced signs of memory loss or dementia, you might want to rethink a pet. It also helps if the owner can move around, especially outdoors. If she is confined to a bed or wheelchair, a dog may lack the stimulation most dogs require.
And then there are those concerns about what will happen to the dog after his owner has passed away. Who will care for him? In fact, that’s one of the biggest concerns for seniors when considering a pet: how can I ensure my pet will be cared for? Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands pets who are abandoned because their owners die.
It’s a tragic reality for far too many pets and their owners – but it doesn’t have to be.
Providing for Pets After Death
There are ways to cover those bases and provide peace of mind. A pet trust is a legal document that can be included in an estate plan. It allows pet owners to designate funds for the future care of their pets. It can be as detailed as one likes, up to and including a schedule for vet visits, the type of food they are given and a host of other important specifics. A pet trust can be changed over the years, too to fit changing needs.
You can allow your pet trust to kick in should you become disabled and no longer able to care for your pet.
You have options and if a loved one could benefit from a dog, cat or other pet, they can now add to their lives the joys that come with being a pet owner without worries of what might happen should the pet outlive them.