Leo and Oskar report for duty when I have to run out for a quick errand to look after my Dad. They keep him company. They encourage him to go outside on nice days. They remind him to do his exercises and they rest together. Leo and Oskar are my two dogs. It amazes me how much they look after him as if they “know”. They are big dogs. I cannot count the number of times I have tripped over them or had them bump into me as they play around in the house. But when they are around my Dad, they are so careful around him. They will parade slowly behind him as he makes his way onto the porch to and from his room or to the kitchen for dinner. They will lay on the floor by his chair during dinner – looking almost like a big brown rug; but when Dad moves his chair to get up – they immediately move out of his way and follow him back to his room.
Pets can play a role in the care of your parent. They are a great companion for anyone living alone. A dog, or any pet, helps in maintaining a routine which older people relish – getting up in the morning, feeding them, taking them out for a walk, playing with them. They also can play a part in the healing process after loosing a spouse or a loved one. Here is a great article about Pets and Aging-In-Place.
Find the right dog (or any pet) is important. As much as everyone loves puppies, they would not be a good fit for an elderly person for obvious reasons. The traits to look for when choosing a dog for his task are: lower energy personality and good listening skills. Finding the right size is important – one that is not too small where they will have to bend to far over to leash them and one that is not too big where they can knock your parent over. Most important, make your parent part of this process. It gives them something to look forward to and they are the ones who will need to connect with the right dog.
The next question is where do you go to find a pet. There are many organizations that specialize in matching Seniors with a new pet.
Looking back, we never thought about getting Dad a pet after Mom died. It was probably something we should have done but it never crossed our mind because we were not aware of any of this – the benefits of seniors having a pet, etc. This is why my sister and I created this website - to provide information, resources and support which we felt was lacking to those of us in this role of caring for an aging parent. Visit our website at any time along the way to become better prepared and aware while on the journey with your aging parents.