How to Help Your Senior Loved Ones Deal with the Loss of a Pet

Posted: 6/25/2020 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
Pets serve as an integral component of life for many seniors, who often live alone. Cats and dogs (plus birds and any number of lovable creatures!) provide tremendous comfort. In fact, owning and caring for a pet provides support for seniors in some critical areas, including:
  • True companionship. With many seniors living alone after losing a spouse, pets serve as a constant companion and friend.
  • Feelings of consistency. Seniors often are not working, and lack structure in their days. Owning and caring for a pet, including feeding, walks, playtime and more, builds routines that provide critical structure.
  • Sense of purpose. Having someone else to care for and provide basic needs can be very rewarding for seniors, whose children and grandchildren may not seem to "need" them. 

With pets serving such important needs in the lives of their senior owners, it's understandable that the death of a pet would be incredibly devastating. 

We recently published our "Guide to Grief," with information on the stages of grief. In this post, we share some important advice for you to help your senior loved ones cope with and move forward from the loss of a pet. 

How to help your loved one after the loss of a pet

Here are some simple yet important ways you can help:

Avoid joking

"That dumb dog was always such a pain!" may seem like a way to diffuse tension and laugh about a lost pet, but seemingly harsh words about the pet may cause your loved one to become angry or defensive, and may make the pain worse. Avoid any type of joke about your loved one's lost pet, and instead offer words of encouragement.

Just listen

Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply be there, and be willing to listen. Hold your loved one's hand and walk through pictures of his or her beloved pet. Listen to stories (and share your own). Your willingness to sit and listen will be important, not just once, but as often as you can after the loss.

Help with logistics

Your loved one may want cremation and even burial of his or her pet. Be available to help with those arrangements (literally and even financially, if you are able). Your loved one may not have had to deal with decisions like this since the loss of a spouse, and having to deal with the details can be overwhelming during a time of immense grief. 

Share resources

Grief support can help seniors get through the loss of a pet, plus any other issues. From talking to a counselor to group meetings (in person, where applicable, and online) can help your loved one feel less alone, and provide critical resources to help him or her work through their grief.

Help find a new pet

Tread carefully here, as your loved one may not be ready for -- or even want -- a new pet. But in many cases, choosing a new pet can help your loved one work through grief and feel better. That being said, there are many decisions that go into finding and adopting a new pet. Talk through those decisions with your loved one, or if he or she isn't interested, be willing to make those decisions yourself. You may also, if possible, need to provide financial assistance here. 

We're here if your senior loved ones need extra help.

Here at Interim HealthCare, we provide senior home care services to help your loved one stay happy and healthy at home. From small tasks to healthcare services and specialized support, we are here for you. To learn more, contact your nearest Interim HealthCare location