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Senior Woman and Retirement Community Staff

Caring for Your Pet Safely as You Age

By: Country Meadows |

Pets make wonderful companions. Caring for them is both a joy and commitment. And as you age, it even may become a health risk. However, with mindful movements and helpful aids, pet ownership can continue to be pleasurable and safe well into your senior years.

Protecting Your Back:

  • When lifting a pet, place it at your feet and close to your body, bend with your knees (not your back) and lift using your leg and abdominal muscles. Your pet may become excited as you pick it up, but avoid twisting as you lift—rather pivot with your hips and shoulders in line and shift your weight.
  • If your pet becomes restless in your arms, find a counter or furniture for it to jump onto. Otherwise, a pet may use you as a spring board if it feels it may land awkwardly or dangerously and cause you to fall backwards or trip.
  • Keep cages and tanks on sturdy rolling carts to roll to the sink or trash can to clean.
  • Place bags or large boxes of pet food on a shelf about waist high. Scoop the appropriate portions into the bowl with a cup vs. pouring the food directly from the bulky bag or box into the bowl.
  • When picking up pet waste, consider using a long-handled scoop to lift up to chest height and then collect the debris for an easier reach and less strain on your back.
  • Keep pet toys collected and stored when not in use. Even small toys can be a trip hazard if left out in walkways (especially in the dark).

Guarding Your Joints:

  • Consider an electric can opener to open canned food.
  • Use a carrier with wheels when transporting your pet. Even empty carriers can weigh five-eight pounds. Add an animated pet, and a bouncing carrier will tug sharply at your joints and may cause you to fall.
  • When walking your pet, choose a route on a fairly even surface and consider a comfort grip leash with a contoured, rubber handle. Most have a heavy-duty D-ring placed above a snap to loop the leash back to itself forming a Y shape to give you better control and a more secure grip.
  • If brushing your pet is painful, use a pet grooming mitt or long-handled brush to ease your grip or reach.
  • When cleaning a litter box, place a chair and trash can next to it and clean it seated.
  • Similarly, when washing a pet, coax it into a tub, slide a chair next to the edge and bathe your pet seated. Avoid sitting on the edge, kneeling or bending over as all are unstable positions if your pet should jump out. Or if your pet is a challenge to bathe, consider a local groomer or one who makes house calls.
  • If using a walker or cane, hold the leash in your hand rather than simply attaching it to your assistive device. This will give you more control and not place you at risk should your pet become restless or excited.

Helpful aids mentioned above can be found at local pet stores or online resources for arthritic individuals such as

Tips provided by Country Meadows’ on-staff restorative care experts.

Country Meadows is a pet-friendly and pet-loving community.

Read more tips in our Tips Library

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