Want to know a major health risk for the elderly?
Loneliness leads to health problems that manifest in every physical way, not to mention the fact that feelings of aloneness can, over time, take away anyone’s desire to stay well.
Even your aging parent is at risk. Those of us who are currently among the sandwich generation do our best to see to our folks’ needs, but we have our own lives—jobs, children, partners/spouses, households to run—and to think that we be everything to everyone is unfair to all of us.
But this is not news.
What your parent needs is a constant companion … someone who makes the days seem sunnier, the air cleaner, the lure of a walk around the block more appealing.
You guessed it. I’m talking about a four-legged companion. Spring is the perfect time to help your mom or dad find just the right pet to love.
“Scott, are you out of your MIND?” you might be thinking right about now, followed by some thoughts along these lines: “Think of the upkeep! The expense! Mom is going to want to take the cat to the vet every time it sneezes!”
How about we think of the bright side instead, and of these proven facts: pets make for good medicine. In the case of dogs, they get their owners out of the house, into the fresh air, every single day. I’ve have more than one client tell me that were it not for the comfort their “best pal” provides, they might not even have the drive to get out of bed and face the day, much less with a smile. (It’s hard to be in a bad mood when a dog is wagging its tale and acting its ever-goofy self.) Plus, it’s nice to feel needed, which for many aging people is the greatest medicine in the world.
Pets show love and adoration to their owners. They love us whether we are young, old or frail. For folks whose own health precludes their getting out and walking even a tiny dog, their loving tone and soothing hand is more than enough comfort for an indoor, adult cat.
Your parents could very well still make wonderful pet parents for the right pet, most notably for a pet in need of a foster home due to its own tragic family circumstances—perhaps the loss of its own human caregiver.
Senior animals can be the perfect match for senior citizens. There are human volunteers who devote their time to placing animals with decent caregivers. This is where you, the adult child, can put your Google-sleuthing skills into play. Check Facebook and the usual online search engines for pet fostering or pet adoption opportunities for senior citizens in your parents’ state. If you don’t find a direct match, send out queries to those you do find who happen to be in nearby states, as often, there are “angels” who are willing to drive a pet several hours to its new home. If your mom or dad has a penchant for a particular breed, join the Facebook group for said animal type. There may also be a local meetup group (found at meetup.com) nearby, dedicated to in-person playdates for group members—really, for the pets, none of whom drive. Think of it all as “pet networking,” realizing that someone within these volunteer networks will become aware of new situations as they arise and perhaps be able to connect you with the right channels.
No, pet care is not cheap, but here again, a little research can go a long way. One example is this organization, Pets for the Elderly, which will pay the cost of adoption through its nationally-affiliated shelters. The program, which began in 1992, has since placed more than 57,000 dogs and cats within the elderly population since that time. PAWS’ Seniors for Seniors is dedicated to bringing senior citizens together with senior dogs and cats (over age seven), at a very low cost. The Humane Society’s national homepage is but one organization that lists ongoing low-cost options for pet care by state.
These are the leads I came up with after spending just a few minutes on my own computer, seeking out keywords such as “seniors,” “animals,” “low-cost,” “fostering,” and “adoption.” Try it this weekend and see how happy it makes your own mom and dad.
If I can be of value to you and your own family, please be in touch.
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.