September 10, 2015

Eldercare and Companion Animals: Finding Kramer the Cat

By Pamela Spahr, Contributing Writer | The Caregiver How Companion Animals Improve Eldercare

When I came home to California from the American Society on Aging convention last March, I knew things would change in my caregiving business, but I did not know they would change so drastically in my personal life.

My business has been expanding and changing lately in a very interesting way. I seem to be writing much more. I am finishing up the editing on my print book. I am speaking more at events outside of the healthcare community. I am talking on the radio and diligently hunting for television work to do. Because of the exposure, I have more work that I am doing nationally as well.

My husband’s illness takes priority over my new business

But for almost six weeks, all of that took a backseat to my husband. Shortly after I returned from the ASA convention, Bob started to feel tired. He developed a dry cough that quickly turned into a nasty deep racking cough. He also became so weak that he fell five times in five days.

Bob’s cough subside after two weeks, but he was still very weak. He was confined to a wheelchair when we went out of the house and he used a walker from the bed to the tilt chair that was 10 feet away. As a result of his illnesses, Bob entered a hospice program. That took some getting used to. He had more care, but it took a while to lay out the schedule and to get used to having to work around more hospice workers.

I took the opportunity to clean out a second bedroom and move all of Bob’s equipment and supplies to one location. By the time I was done, the room was filled to bursting with everything he needed.

Loved one’s changing needs can cause feelings of isolation

When all was said and done, I was left feeling as if my whole world had abruptly and forever changed. Of course, it had. Bob had gone from being able to walk with help to a wheelchair. He went from sleeping about eight hours a day to sleeping 12 hours a day. Although I am generally a happy and optimistic person, I began to feel isolated, unhappy, and lonely.

Then a little thought popped into my head. I wondered what it would be like to have a pet in the apartment. It would be a large undertaking. I needed to check with the property manager to see if I could have pets, then I had to hope that Bob would be comfortable with the animal. We hadn’t had a pet in years, so I would need to get all of the necessities for its care.

Caregivers and loved ones can benefit from animal companions

The thought of a pet stayed on my mind for the next few days. I stopped at the apartment office and after a long discussion I found that I could get an animal and would not have to pay an extra deposit if I got a hospice doctor’s note saying that Bob would do better if he had an animal companion.

I thought long and hard about what kind of animal would be best. Dogs need to be walked and socialize with other dogs, which my schedule didn’t allow. I did not want a kitten, because they are rambunctious and they love to play, which is what they should do. I realized that we needed an animal that was quiet, calm and needed very little care.

Kramer the rescue cat is a calming, supportive presence

I’d planned to take a the weekend off and prepare for an upcoming talk, when lo and behold, the car took an unexpected turn and off we went to the animal shelter. After the receptionist walked me through the adoption process, I went into the cat viewing room. There he was, sleeping. Just the companion that Bob and I would enjoy.

His name is Kramer and he’s a 10-year-old rescue cat. The attendant put him on a multilevel climbing tree and all eight people in the room gathered around to pet him. He loved it.

Kramer is a wonderful calming presence. Even though he’s very quiet, he seems to fill the space around him nicely. The apartment is not as empty as it was and Bob seems to be happy him around. I am so happy to have found Kramer.  I think Kramer is happy to have us, too. I am amazed how much difference he has made in our lives in just a day.

Pamela Spahr, the founder of Inspired Caregivers and the author of the eBook, “Caregivers Survival Toolkit,” is an expert in behavioral and emotional techniques designed specifically for caregivers to those with cognitive impairment. She coaches caregivers and teaches her techniques to family and professional caregivers around the United States.

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