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 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 springboard if it feels it may land awkwardly or dangerously and cause you to fall backward or trip.
- If moving a cage or tank from a level higher than your waist, empty its contents first to make the load lighter. Then move the object to a lower surface about waist high (but no higher than your chest), shift your weight, and finish moving it to the floor or carrying to the sink.
- 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, remember to bend with your knees (not your back)—even for small debris. Consider using a long-handled scoop to lift up to chest height and then collect the waste for easier reach and less strain on your back.
Guarding Your Joints:
- Purchase an electric can opener to open canned pet food.
- Use a carrier with wheels when transporting your pet. Carriers can make pets anxious and thus very restless. 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, consider a comfortable 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—avoid bending as much as possible.
- 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 visiting your local groomer or finding one who makes house calls.
Helpful aids mentioned above can be found at local pet stores or online resources for arthritic individuals such as www.arthritissupplies.com.