Senior Care Kits
Many clinics have puppy or kitten kits available for new pet families but do not offer a Senior Care Kit for families of the senior patient. A client with a senior pet may have as many issues and questions as someone with a new puppy or kitten. To create a Senior Care Kit for both dogs and cats, consider the following contents:
- Customized healthcare and product recommendations
- Information on common senior pet diseases, such as chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, neoplasia, cognitive dysfunction, mobility changes, and chronic pain
- Medication information for their pet’s prescriptions, including dispensing instructions, pill-giving tips, and side effects to watch for
- Information on chronic versus acute pain recognition and detection (include visual aid of the practice’s preferred validated chronic and acute pain scales)
- Specific nutritional recommendations for their pet, including visual information about body condition score and muscle condition score
- Cognitive dysfunction questionnaire
- Tumor/skin maps
- Changes that clients could make in their home, which may include elevating food bowls, keeping pets safe with barriers and gates, alerts or alarms in areas where they can get into trouble (e.g., pools and stairs), yoga mats and carpet runners, ramps, and bedding in accessible areas
- Changes that can help with mobility: toe grips and boots, harnesses for mobility, relocating a dog’s play or resting area closer to the door, and lower litter boxes for cats
- Changes to decrease stress in the home: use of pheromone sprays, temperature control, access to sunlight, nightlights, sound machines, and front door signs to ask guests not to ring the doorbell
- Bucket and joys-of-living lists
- Checklist of local senior-friendly/recommended pet sitters, gentle groomers, daycare and boarding facilities, and local and online support groups
- Validated QOL assessments and scale
- Information about caregiver burden and caregiver support resources
- Anticipatory grief, pet loss, and grief information, including a crisis phone number and website
- Veterinary palliative care and hospice information
A Senior Care Kit will help clients support their senior pet and improve QOL. Other useful tools could include encouraging clients to take pictures and videos of their pets within a specified time (i.e., daily, weekly, or monthly) to help the client and the veterinarian track body condition changes, mobility, joyful activities, and other behaviors associated with the senior life stage. Having clients see these changes over time will help them better assess QOL as the pet’s disease progresses.
It is helpful to provide families of older pets with a checklist of what to look for (and what to avoid) regarding appropriate pet sitters, pet loss support groups, gentle groomers, senior hotels, and boarding facilities (e.g., in-home boarding staff who can administer medications to the pet). If the primary caregiver is going to be out of town or unavailable, the client should have a letter given to the pet sitter that includes a phone number for the client; the time zone they will be in; who the pet sitter is and an authorization for them to make decisions; how the client is going to pay for any services rendered in case of emergency; and a designated family member, friend, or other representative who is authorized to make healthcare decisions for the pet.
Keep in mind that not all clients are able to come into the clinic. It may be a good idea to have the essential senior care resources, tools, and information readily available on your website.