Pets are an important part of many of our lives. Older adults especially benefit from having the companionship and affection of a furry friend. So what happens when an older adult experiences a health crisis that takes them away for a time, or becomes unable to live independently? Planning for a pet is an important component of end of life planning.
Starting the discussion
It's never easy to start talking about death and dying, or even age-related health issues. But it's going to happen - and having plans in place are critical to ensuring an older adults' wishes are carried out. When it comes to what to do with pets, there are many things that can be addressed ahead of time.
If an older adult is ready to talk about moving into independent or assisted living, narrow down the search to include only properties that allow pets. Some properties allow dogs under a certain weight - so if your family member has a great dane, or a lab, they might be out of luck. So make sure the size of the pet is acceptable as well.
If the property doesn't allow pets, or the condition of the older adult precludes taking care of the pet, be sure to have the older adult identify who they would want their furry friend to live with, and make sure that person accepts the responsibility.
Some families set up "Pet Trusts" to be established for the care of the pet with another family. These pet trusts detail specifically how that animal is to be cared for, and provides funds to set up for that care. The American Veterinary Medical Association has a good starter for setting up pet trusts https://www.avma.org/advocacy/state-local-issues/pet-trusts-caring-pet-outlives-its-owner
Final wishes for furry friends
Talking about end of life issues is never easy, but talking about how much someone loves their pets and what they want for them is a really good way to broach the conversation. These talks can lead to more concrete decisions about their personal wishes as well. Making sure their furry friends are taken care of is a concrete step toward planning for end of life.