As I said last month, emergency evacuations are devastating and traumatic under any circumstances. This is especially true for the elderly – especially the elderly with pets. Last month I wrote about planning for major emergencies such as 9/11, Katrina, wild fires, floods, or tornado\’s.

This month I\’m going to cover a far more likely scenario – a personal emergency such as a medical emergency wherein your elderly loved one needs someone to take care of their pet for the short or long term.

We\’ve all heard of stories about an elderly person who won\’t leave their home, even to go into the hospital for a medical emergency, because they don\’t have anyone to take care of their pet. However, they don\’t always have a choice. They would, however, be much more willing to go to the hospital if they knew there is someone to look after their pet.

While these situations are not going to be easy, the key is not to wait for the emergency. Effective preparation takes time and thought. While we can all hope for the best, hope is not a strategy. Therefore, they should hope for the best and plan for the worst because careful planning and preparation will lessen some of the impact.

Selecting a Short-Term, Temporary Caregiver

For the very short term, their pet can probably stay in their own home where it\’s familiar and they will feel safe so the requirements for the short term caregiver can be minimal – to walk, feed, and reassure the pet at least 3 times a day.

The need then is to find someone dependable, responsible, caring, honest, and that the pet likes and trusts. Ideally it will be someone who lives close to their home, knows their pet, and is home or can get home frequently throughout the day. This can be a family member, a trusted friend, neighbor, social worker, even the building superintendent. For longer temporary caregiving, select someone who can take the pet home or arrange for short-term “foster care”. (Google “Foster Care for Pets”)

In addition, even if a neighbor can\’t take care of their pet, they should let a neighbor know who to contact along with contact information. That same information should also be posted in some obvious place such as on the refrigerator or by the door where an emergency responder can easily find it.

Selecting a Permanent Caregiver

Selecting a permanent pet caregiver will undoubtedly be much harder decision for your elderly loved one because it means first coming to grips with the fact that giving away their pet might be eventually be necessary. As devastating as this realization will be, knowing that they will be entrusting their cherished pet to someone who will unquestionably give it a loving home will cushion the blow.

First look at anyone who has met and really likes their pet. This should also be someone who either has no pets or who has pets that will easily accept a new friend. If there are other pets in the selected caregiver\’s home, it\’s a good idea to arrange several “play dates” to make sure they really get along – and for your elderly loved one to be comfortable with the decision.

If they don\’t have anyone in mind, they might start by talking with pet lovers they meet where they walk their dog. They can also contact local clubs that support their breed or by Googling “pet adoptions.” By starting the process early – well in advance of any need – they will have time to build a trusting relationship with a potential .

As I said before, emergency evacuations are never going to be easy. The key is not to wait for the emergency. All of this is going to take time and thought but careful planning and preparation can lessen some of the impact.

If your elderly loved one is resistant to making these plans, emphasize that emergency preparation for their pets goes hand-in-hand with being a good pet owner and that the work they do now will make it much better for their pet later.

By the way, discussing emergency preparation for their pets is a great way to discuss emergency preparations for them, too!

For emergency information in your elderly loved one\’s area, contact their local government Office of Emergency Management. New York City has a really good Office of Emergency Management site. Check it out at and while you\’re there, you can download a pet emergency guide.

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving® 2008 You can find information about “The Ultimate Caregiver’s Survival Guide”: The step by step blueprint to resolving your Eldercare issues by choice, not crisis WORKBOOK, AgeWiseLiving® seminars, and free teleseminars, and to sign up for Barbara’s free monthly newsletter at, or by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is an author and the country’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University, where she created and teaches “Seniors Housing Management” at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.