Animal shelters are filled with pets given up because their senior humans are going to nursing homes, assisted living, hospice, or just can’t afford them. What can animal lovers and shelters do to help prevent these seniors from surrendering their pets? Following are some ideas for animal shelters, rescues, and animal-loving families.
Establish a network of foster care families to take care of pets while seniors are in the hospital.
Establish a network of caretakers to work with seniors in caring for their pets. This could include dog walking, pet transportation to veterinarians and groomers, pet food delivery, in-home pet care, or any other animal caretaking needs. Animal-loving teenagers could be a tremendous help with these chores.
Set up a special fund at your local animal shelter to meet the needs of seniors who need help providing for their pets. This fund could prevent some seniors from surrendering their pets.
Ask your local newspaper to run a story about the services available in your community for senior citizens who own pets. Include a checklist on how to plan for the pet when seniors must change their living situations.
If you have a pet food bank in your community, coordinate with that group about reaching out to seniors who may be homebound and need help. Some pet food banks partner with food banks for people. A program called Animeals is available in some communities as a Meals on Wheels for pets living with homebound humans. Research what’s available in your community and help find a way to include seniors who need help feeding their pets.
Contact senior citizen communities, senior recreation centers, churches, libraries, or anywhere seniors gather to help inform seniors about ways your community can help them and their pets. Post that information on their bulletin boards and in newsletters.
In your own family, what would happen to the seniors’ pets if they had to go to a nursing home, hospice, or another facility which doesn’t accept pets? Help your relatives plan for this. Make arrangements with family members to take these pets when the time comes.
Do seniors in your family need financial help to care for their pets? Or maybe they need someone to take their pets to veterinary appointments? Offer to help your family members so they can continue to keep their pets at home.
PAWS is a nonprofit group in Houston that “provides for the comprehensive needs of a companion pet of an owner that is elderly, chronically or terminally ill.” The services include in-home care, hospice care, foster care, and hospital personal pet visitations. Take a look at this group’s website for some great ideas on helping seniors with health issues continue to take care of their pets.