Should you get your elderly parent a pet?

Posted: 7/2/2019 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare

The joy of owning a pet is something that millions of individuals and families around the country enjoy each day. Chances are if you don’t have a pet right now, you have at least enjoyed the benefit of wet dog kisses or a kitty purring in your lap!

Along with the joy of owning a pet, there are also quite a few health benefits associated with pet ownership, including:


- Decreased blood pressure

- Decreased cholesterol

- Decreased feelings of loneliness

- Increased movement and opportunities for socialization

- And more


If you’ve read many posts here on the Interim HealthCare blog, you may recognize some of those health benefits. That’s because they address many of the increased risks we encounter as we get older!


Consequently, you may be thinking about getting your elderly parent a pet. With so many health benefits, it may seem like a no-brainer. 

While contemplating whether or not to get a pet for Mom or Dad, here are some key factors to consider:

Does Mom or Dad need a pet, or would a service animal make more sense?

Service animals provide the companionship of a pet, along with extra training to help recognize dangerous signs, and the ability to help seniors and those with special needs in certain circumstances. Some of the tasks service dogs are often trained to complete include: 


- Opening and closing doors

- Helping their owners dress and undress 

- Preventing falls

- Retrieving wheelchairs and walkers


In an emergency situation, service dogs are also trained to rise to the occasion, with the ability to retrieve medication, call 911 and even open the door for EMT or first responders. They can also run for help or bark for help once they have identified an emergency situation, and will lay down on their owner’s chests to help them cough or breathe better. 


Adopting a service animal typically incurs a considerable investment, but you may be able to subsidize the cost of adoption through a nonprofit organization. 

Can we afford the cost of owning a pet? 

Owning pets can be costly. With annual trips to the vet, plus the expense of food, toys and other pet supplies, the costs can add up. When pets get sick, or especially as they get older, the costs can climb dramatically. 


This chart from the ASPCA outlines the typical first-year cost of pet ownership. Although first-year costs are typically higher due to initial vaccinations and adoption costs, it provides a good estimate as to ongoing monthly costs associated with pet ownership. 


Mom or Dad’s savings, pension, or Social Security benefits may cover the cost of ownership, or you may decide to cover the costs. Regardless, it’s important to determine whether pet ownership fits into your elderly loved one’s budget, now, and in the long run. 

Could owning a pet put Mom or Dad at risk? 

While owning a pet is associated with many health benefits, there are also inherent risks associated with pet ownership for seniors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that roughly 86,000 people are injured in a fall involving their pet in the United States every year, with the highest injury rates occurring in adults age 75 and older. Most of these falls are associated with dogs (if you’ve ever gotten home from work or the store and have been “attacked” by an excited dog, you may have even fallen yourself!), but dogs and cats can both pose a risk. 


If Mom or Dad has an especially hard time getting around, or if you’re particularly concerned about your loved one’s risk of falling, consider talking to a doctor to weigh the benefits and risks of pet ownership. 

Empower Mom or Dad to live a healthy, happy life at home.

At Interim HealthCare, our senior home care services are designed to keep your loved one happy, healthy and independent. To learn more about senior home care services in your area, contact your closest Interim HealthCare location.