by Joy Loverde
You better be nice to Fluffy and Fido. Your aging parents’ pets may play more of an important role in their lives than you think. Besides, the natural bond between your parent and his or her pet can help ease your load as the family caregiver. Who else can give them this much love and attention day-by day?
Animals make no distinction between the sick and the healthy or the young and the old, and their love is unconditional; elders transfer much of their love and attention to their pets as a way of dealing with natural losses in their lives. Over the years, studies have proven that interaction with pets provides medical benefits to older people.
Though we may not share our parents’ enthusiasm for his or her particular pet, it’s in our best interest to recognize the depth of their emotional attachment to the animal and the benefits that animal provides; pets provide constant companionship; caring for pets offers a sense of purpose; larger animals such as dogs may make them feel more secure; watching fish in an aquarium or stroking a furry animal has been known to reduce stress and lower blood pressure; birds make “music” they enjoy listening to; training pets to do tricks offers a sense of accomplishment; and taking a dog for a walk offers daily exercise.
However, owning a pet comes at a cost. Pet food, special diets, and medications can be overwhelmingly expensive, especially for large and active animals. Vet bills, accessories like cages, leashes and toys, obedience training, and pet sitting services can be costly. While pets can be great company for people of all ages, there are long-term considerations to address regarding the cost of pet care.
If you think your parents might enjoy the company of a pet, and yet you know they can’t possibly care for an animal right now, how about giving them a soft, furry teddy bear-type stuffed animal to cuddle and stroke? You might also consider some of the new battery-operated dogs and cats that are on the market. They are incredibly lifelike, fun, and yet they require no care or cost at all.