Seniors and Pet Separation

Many of us have pets we love dearly in our lives. Seniors often find pets to be good companions when they live on their own. Indeed, studies have shown that having a pet is great for one’s health. However, pets often cannot move with a senior to assisted living, and even if they can there’s many reasons why it might not be a practical decision. What will happen to the pet is often the biggest concern about the move.

It’s common for people to feel wracked by guilt over abandoning a beloved friend they have taken on the responsibility to care for. However, this guilt is misplaced if the senior is having trouble caring for the pet and it would be better off with other owners. Seniors who are ready for assisted living may have trouble with taking the dog for a walk, feeding or cleaning their pet, or getting to the vet or to the store for supplies. Indeed, families concerned about mom or dad can get a clue to how well they are able to be on their own by observing how the pet is doing.

One possible solution is for the senior’s family members or a friend to adopt the pet. They can bring the animal to see their loved one regularly. Even if the pet cannot come into the facility, the senior can be brought outside to say hello. This is the ideal solution for reducing the trauma of pet separation.

If this is not possible and the senior doesn’t know anyone, even living far away, who can take the pet, it will probably have to be surrendered to a shelter. Giving the animal away to strangers is not always a great idea, as they can end up with an abusive or irresponsible owner. Seek out a well-funded “no-kill” shelter to receive the animal. It’s a good sign if you have to make an appointment to surrender the pet: this shows that the shelter is working to manage their intake of new animals. There’s a good chance the pet will find a new family. Find out in advance if your pet has any issues that will make it “unadoptable” in the shelter’s eyes. Especially if the pet is old, make sure to provide the shelter with veterinary records.

If a loved one entering assisted living is bereft over the loss of a pet, try to compensate with plenty of human companionship. Make sure that the senior’s family and friends visit often. Feeling involved in a community can help with the loss.