Q: I am a little frustrated with the money my 80-year-old mother has been spending on veterinarian bills for her cat. She lives on a fixed income and I doubt she can afford unnecessary expenses. How do I convince her this is only an animal and she should just have the cat "put down"?

A: Hopefully your intentions weren't meant to be insensitive, pet lovers everywhere may be ready to take you to task after reading your question. Y

ou may be concerned about her finances, but to your mother this may not only be a justifiable expense but one she wouldn't even hesitate to pay. A reputable veterinary clinic would not encourage additional treatment to a beloved pet if there wasn't reason to believe the animal could be saved and have quality of life.

Pets provide companionship, emotional support and unconditional love to an older adult. People often view their cat or dog as a member of the family as opposed to "only an animal." Countless studies have indicated having a pet can minimize depression for their owner, lower the person's blood pressure and decrease their sense of loneliness.

Taking care of a pet can actually provide purpose in an elders life. Animals don't judge a person's disability or condition which can not always be said of humans.

Older adults suffer a series of losses throughout their later years, whether that be through previous employment, moving from their home because they can no longer afford the upkeep or are not physically capable of managing tasks, and the death of friends and other family members.

Giving up a pet or the death of a pet is one additional loss for them to endure. Understandably not everyone is going to be a pet lover but those people should never devalue the loss a person feels when their pet is gone.

If you are determined to bring up this topic with your mother, approach it from a point of whether the bills are becoming cumbersome for her. Do research to inquire if there are any resources to assist with the cost. Would family members help out with the bills in lieu of birthday gifts or other celebrations?

Do you have a question? Direct inquiries to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843.

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