Easier Pet Care for Older Adults

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Lauren Goetz, right, is the owner of Everyday Hands, a Rochester business that helps people with non-medical domestic work.

Although pets bring many mental and physical health benefits, some older adults find caring for their cat or dog more challenging than it used to be. Fortunately, area resources can make it easier for them to enjoy their pets and keep up with their animals’ care.

Everyday Hands serves the Rochester area with non-medical domestic help. Clients are all ages; however, many are older adults. Lauren Goetz, the company owner, said that Everyday Hands employees will scoop litter boxes and feed animals, but typically do these as an add-on service for people already needing services such as errand transportation, light housekeeping, organizing–decluttering, and companionship.

“With our price point we’re not the best option, if that’s the only thing,” Goetz said. “If we’re already working with a client, it may be the best option. We’ll take pets to the groomer’s and to the vet, too.”

Goetz encourages older adults to use automation to streamline pet care, such as automated feeders, waterers and cat box cleaners. These items reduce the frequency of these pet care chores.

Buying the right products can help also, such as lightweight litter or small packages of litter if carrying 25-pound containers is too difficult. Clumping litter can reduce the frequency of lifting a full litterbox to dump it, as it’s easier to scoop out soiled clumps and conserve the remaining clean litter. Many online companies like Chewy. Com will regularly deliver products right to the doorstep, reducing the need to heft bags of food and litter.

If tight finances make it difficult to keep a pet, Goetz recommends that those who receive Meals on Wheels ask about receiving pet food as well.

“In Irondequoit, the food cupboard has pet supplies like litter and food,” she added.

Whether a professional service or a responsible neighbor kid who wants to make some money, hiring a dog walker can reduce pet care work while still providing exercise and stimulation to a dog. Dog waste removal services can make yard clean-up easier.

Goetz also suggested finding a vet that performs house calls and a mobile groomer for people who struggle to transport their pet.

Haley’s Groom and Zoom in Lyons serves Ontario, Wayne Seneca and most of Yates counties. Owner Haley Stivers trims pets’ nails, toenails, bathes dogs, brushes dogs and cats, and cleans dogs’ ears.

“I do have some older clients who no longer drive and a couple of them have a harder time getting their pets in the car,” Stivers said. “Sometimes, caregivers reach out to me about my services because it’s super hard to even think about giving up a pet.”

Her prices range from $12 for a nail trim to a bath plus nail trim for $35 for a small dog to $45 for an extra-large dog, plus a $5 to $15 travel fee.

In addition, the home set-up can make caring for pets easier. For example, a dog run can help with taking the animal outside to eliminate rather than walking it on a leash.

Inside, reduce the risk of slips and trips.

“If you’re going to be able to take your dog for a walk, hang the leash up so it won’t fall on the floor and create a tripping hazard,” said Jeremy Tiermini, a certified athletic trainer and professor in Health Sciences and Human Performance at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua. Tiermini earned a Master of Sports Science Sports Medicine at the United States Sports Academy.

“Keep pet toys picked up; have a spot to store them,” he added. “Dogs and cats like to claim their stuff and put them in the middle of the floor. Dogs can be messy when they drink, which can be a slipping hazard. Clean up any spills.”

Sometimes, the pet itself can contribute to falls. Tiermini recommends placing a bell on the cat’s collar and using metal tags for dog collars, so they jingle as they walk instead of plastic ones.

“Annually, 80,000 people go to the ER for a fall injury caused by a pet,” he said. “We don’t want to give up pets if they’re a source of comfort. Start to think of when you might need help. It’s hard at any age to ask for help, but you might need help if a pet still has a lot of energy.”