Ever since your dad passed away, your elderly mother has not been herself. Mom stopped going out with her friends, and you can tell she’s not eating like she should and displaying signs of depression. Now you’re concerned that mom’s declining health has reached the point it’s beginning to threaten her at-home independence. Have you considered getting her a pet? Numerous studies have shown the many rewards of pet ownership for seniors, including those with memory loss. Here’s how to decide if getting a pet is the right move for your parent.

The Many Ways Pets Benefit Seniors

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA; www.aspca.org) has identified several animal species as good companions for the elderly, including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, small reptiles and fish. When considering a pet for a senior, here are some of the documented benefits that it could provide:

Is a Pet Right for Your Parent?

Before running out to purchase a lovable pet for mom, you’ll need to first ask yourself these questions to ensure it’s the right decision:

Is she set in her ways?

If mom doesn’t embrace change well, notably if she has some dementia, she may not respond positively to having a new pet in her home.

Has she had a pet before?

Pet ownership works best when someone’s owned one in the past, but even first-timers can still make great owners if they are open-minded about taking on a potentially rewarding commitment.

What age of pet would be best?

A young puppy or kitten may not be ideal for mom because of the amount of care and training that’s required. Younger pets also tend to outlive their owners, and birds especially live very long lives.

What temperament best fits her?

Animals have unique energy levels and personalities just like we humans, so if you’re looking at something like a dog or cat for your mom take time to carefully research the temperaments of the different breeds.

Does mom have limited mobility?

Dogs make wonderful companions who encourage their owners to get outside and exercise. Unfortunately, if mom has mobility issues walking a dog may be difficult. If that’s the case, a cat or bird might make a better choice.

Are mom’s finances limited?

Annual food, vet care, toys and grooming expenses can add up quickly for dog and cat owners. If her financial resources are limited, a fish or bird would be lower maintenance and less costly.