By Brenda Deschner, Certified Concierge Care Advisor      

I have a dog and a cat and I love having a pet in my home.  I waited four years to get new pets for my home because I was not sure what my life would be like, or my work schedule.  I understand how a bond with an animal can raise our spirits and how therapeutic it can be. That said, I have to have the talk about when it is not appropriate to have a pet.  In general, if you are not able to care for the pet you should no longer have the pet. This means feeding, walking, and toileting the animal.  Within senior living settings, this is the policy in 99.6% of care homes.  Assisted Living, Memory Care and Adult Family Homes.

Sometimes a senior living home will build a care plan for the animal, but then you are talking about an average cost of $1500 a month to toilet, feed, and walk an animal.  That is not realistic for most families, and there are not many places that allow it. Another important factor for this policy is that anyone who is a fall risk doubles their risk of a fall while caring for a pet.  On the bright side, many homes allow your loved one to visit with their pet.  If you can care for it in your home, it is HIGHLY encouraged to bring them to visit.  It will raise your loved ones spirits while the pet is supervised to decrease the risk of an injury to your loved one.

The appropriate time to give up a pet is before you need to move into a home with care.  There are so many reasons why a senior does not want to move from home, even when it is no longer safe to do so. Having a beloved pet is another reason not to make a safe transition.   Most often, people delay preparing for their late senior years, and move in an emergency situation.  If it is un-avoidable to plan in advance, then be prepared to mentally accept that this will be best for the loved one and their pet.

Warning signs that it is time to make a change are if your loved one is:

  • A fall risk
  • Has memory problems
  • Has been diagnosed with any life altering disease that will cause mental or physical decline

Aging is not fun.  There is a lot of loss.  Loss of a lifetime partner, loss of friends, loss of physical or mental capacity, loss of their home to move into a care facility.  Don’t use this as a way to justify keeping a pet that isn’t able to be cared for and loved properly.  Instead find a family member or family friend who is able to care for the pet and bring them to visit.  That way your loved one and the fur baby are both safe and happy!