The Impact of a Care Recipient’s Pet on Caregiving Burden, Satisfaction, and Mastery: A Pilot Investigation

Jessica Bibbo, PhD
Center for Research and Education
Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging
Cleveland, OH, USA

Christine M. Proulx, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Human Development and Family Science
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO, USA

Older adults who require assistance with their own self-care most likely need assistance with pet care. These pet care tasks are likely taken on by their family caregivers (i.e., informal caregivers). However, the potential impact of an older adult’s pet on caregivers’ emotional experiences has not been explored. Role theory was used to model the impact of a care recipient’s pet (i.e., number of pet care tasks performed and the perceived costs of care recipients’ pet ownership) on caregivers’ levels of caregiving burden, satisfaction, and mastery. The moderating role of the perceived bond between the care recipient and their pet, the caregiver’s closeness to the pet, and mutuality in the caregiver-care recipient relationship were also examined. Forty-nine caregivers who did not consider themselves to be co-owner of their care recipients’ pet completed a one-time online survey. Path analyses controlling for perceptions of inadequate help were conducted separately for each outcome variable using the maximum likelihood for missing values. The perceived costs of the care recipients’ pet ownership were directly associated with lower caregiving mastery. The perceived bond between the care recipient and their pet moderated the association between the number of pet care tasks and satisfaction. The caregivers’ closeness to the pets moderated the association between the perceived costs and satisfaction. Caregiver-care recipient mutuality moderated the relationships between pet care tasks and burden, pet care tasks and mastery, and costs and mastery. Care recipients’ pets are likely to have an impact on the subjective experiences within the role of caregiver. These impacts are likely qualified by the human-animal bond, and to a larger extent, the caregiver-care recipient relationship.