Enjoying retirement can span from moving to a coastal town to traveling across the globe using retirement income or funds from SMSF property investments. But other seniors choose to continue leading a simple life with their family and beloved pets.
Pets provide boundless, unconditional love. They also give amazing companionship, especially to seniors who are often alone at home. That’s why the loss of a beloved pet can cause a different magnitude of grief & emotional suffering to the elderly.
Understanding the Bond Between a Senior & Their Pet
Many seniors form intense emotional bonds with their cats or dogs during retirement because caring for their pets gives them a newfound purpose. The pet-owner relationship could become more valuable, too, especially if the seniors lost the interactions they had when they were still working or going out of the house often.
Having a pet also encourages seniors to lead an active lifestyle. They have to walk their dog daily or bring their cat to the vet regularly. Even the simple task of preparing their pet’s food requires them to be more active and move around.
Moreover, playing with an energetic dog, snuggling with a cat or feeding fish in the aquarium helps stave off the loneliness that many elderly usually experience.
Helping Seniors Cope with the Loss of a Pet
Seeing the special bond seniors have with their pets, you’ll understand why they may struggle to cope when their favourite passes away. If you have a parent, grandparent or an elderly friend grieving over a loss of a pet, it’s important to be there for them.
Here are some things you can do to help them in this difficult time:
Offer to help with the cremation or funeral arrangements
Losing a pet is stressful for anyone, but it can even be more detrimental for the elderly. So if your parent or grandparent’s pet has recently passed, offer to assist with the cremation or funeral arrangements.
They would need all the help they can get, especially if they already have low mobility and their pet was their primary social connection. Dealing with all the necessary arrangements will allow your parent or grandparent to focus on their well-being.
Plus, they may not know where they can hire pet cremation services, how to book them online and how to coordinate everything swiftly. So when you help them with it, you take unnecessary stress off their table.
Allow them to reminisce about their pet
A huge part of the grieving process is dealing with the sudden absence of the pet. Encourage your senior loved one to process the loss by talking about the memories with their pet.
It’s a great way to shift the focus away from the loss and preserve wonderful memories instead. It’s a crucial step in coping with the loss of a pet. However, keep in mind that they may find it hard talking about it.
If that’s the case, don’t force it and wait for your loved one to open up. If you think they want to talk but need help bringing out the memories, you can use some gentle starting points.
Ask them about the time they first brought their pet home. You can also begin the talk by listing the pet’s weird yet funny antics or adorable behaviours.
Check in with them
A few days or weeks after the pet cremation or burial, check in with your senior loved one. That’s very important, especially if playing or hanging out with their pet was one of the only few social interactions they had.
Take them out for a short walk or visit their home and cook a special lunch or dinner for them. If you could spend several days or weeks with them at their home, do so.
Otherwise, regular phone calls or video conference calls would help, too.
Healing May Take Time
The loss of a pet isn’t easy for anyone, and it can have lifelong effects. Undoubtedly, it can even be harder for seniors, as they hold their special bond with the pet dearly.
But with time and a lot of help from their loved ones, they will eventually heal and move forward with their lives.