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Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, Consultant, AgingParents.com. The most vulnerable among us, our aging loved ones, are still socially isolated in many places. It may be that senior homes with at-risk elders will be the last to have visitors in this pandemic. In counties tracking the statistics of COVID-19 infections in long term care homes, some have things under better control and some do not. The result is that many seniors remain alone. The risk of opening their homes to visitors can be a life or death decision for facility owners, due to the fragile health of residents.If it’s Mom or Dad living alone at their own home, the decision still has the same consequences. Health comes first. In my own small county with many elders, 100% of the virus-related deaths were persons over age 65. If your aging parent is in alone and feeling starved for company, what can you do?Loneliness is a threat to stable health. Perhaps the daily call you make to them does not seem like enough. Here’s another idea:

Consider whether your aging parent would enjoy fostering a pet during this time of forced aloneness.Shutdown may last awhile longer than for those at less risk.Some animal shelters are promoting fostering for free while anyone is shut down due to coronavirus. Hospitalizations, extended illness and other changes have caused pet owners to put their four-legged friends in shelters, putting some shelters in desperate need of people willing to take in a dog or cat temporarily. The long-term responsibility of ownership is avoided when that is too much for an elder. And the benefit of a constant companion cannot be measured. Sometimes the puppy, kitten or grown animal has no home to go back to. In those cases, the pet is eligible for making a permanent home with the foster parent. Otherwise, your aging parent can give the pet back to the shelter if a long-term pet is not what they want.Anyone who has a pet can tell you that they bring laughter, joy and fun to the owner. Companionship is so critical for folks who are alone, and not allowed to go out shopping, dining, to visit friends or to a movie theater due to the health risks of leaving home. It would be wonderful if a happy, tail wagging friend or purring kitty could just be there with them.If you are considering the prospect, note that even a foster parent must accept the responsibility over an animal to ensure that it is properly cared for during the time of fostering. Be sure your aging loved one is capable or can manage with your help. Sometimes a trip to the vet could be needed. As a dog lover myself, I sometimes think of how lonely it would be to have no person nor animal at my side all day every day. My dog, Rosie, follows me around as if she senses that this is a weird time and wants to be sure I’m okay.She gets a lot of attention and she does what dogs do to attend to her owner in return. She’ very attentive these days!

At AgingParents.com, where we offer advice to families, we hear client stories of how an aging loved one was ready to move to assisted living but the corona virus put those plans on hold. Now the aging parent remains isolated, alone at home and the adult children are not sure just when the situation will change. As long as the elder is capable, we suggest fostering a small dog, or a quiet animal that the elder can manage. When you put a pet in the hands of your aging parent, it’s a win-win. The shelter or rescue organization has a place for the animal to go and avoids having to euthanize animals. If the owner has lost a job and can’t afford to keep the pet, you are helping to ensure that the dog or cat will not be abandoned. And most of all, you’re bringing happiness to someone who needs the company an animal can offer to anyone, especially our lonely aging loved ones.If you are having difficulty with an aging parent who is stubborn and won’t accept help, or who is refusing to allow you to take safety measures, you can get a professional consultationatAgingParents.com. We offer guidance so you can save time, money and aggravation in your efforts to keep your loved ones safe. Contact us directly at (415) 459-0413 and relieve your stress today! All our consultations can be done by telephone, Zoom or Skype.

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