What Do Pet Ownership And Being A Power Of Attorney Have In Common?

May 11, 2017

I have a new puppy, Sigmund.

He is into everything puppies get into; and of course, he needs all of his up-to-date vaccines and training.

One day this week I was sitting on the couch with Sigmund, trying to figure out which pet insurance we should be getting.

It then occurred to me: right now, he’s just a baby. But as pets age, taking care of them is very similar to being a Power of Attorney (POA).

Take Susie Q, my cat.

Susie has been going through the ups and down of getting older, and my husband and I have been trying to figure out how to care for her. What is best for her? Would she want more treatment?

Being a healthcare or personal care Power of Attorney

Because of my job, I hear the topic of POAs come up a lot in retirement living—and with seniors in general.

Being a POA is essentially caregiving: making medical decisions for someone you love, who’s not able to make decisions themselves.

Similar (not exactly the same, but similar) to being a pet owner, being a healthcare POA can be quite stressful—especially when you don’t really know what the person (or pet) in your care actually wants.

Ensuring quality of life

Take dementia, for instance. When your mom or dad is no longer able to communicate effectively, it’s a real challenge to know if the choices you’re making on the behalf are the right ones.

After all, how can you ensure quality of life—their life—if they can’t tell you what “quality” means to them?

For example, let’s say your loved one develops cancer and you’re their healthcare Power of Attorney. Do you decide to put them through chemotherapy? Or would it be better to spare them the agony of treatment?

What is best for them?

When it comes to being a POA, unfortunately, there is no real hard-and-fast, black-and-white answer.

Senior woman holding a  dog
What do pet ownership and being a power of attorney have in common?

Dealing with the stress

The only thing I know is this…

After spending more than a dozen years in the seniors’ industry, I know that being in the position of making life decisions for another person can be incredibly anxiety-inducing.

The good news is that there is help available for people in that position.

Here are just three ways to ease the stress involved with being a healthcare Power of Attorney:

  • Plan ahead

If you’re able to, try to discuss your loved one’s wishes before their health deteriorates and they’re unable to communicate.

  • Find networks/resources

There are networks and resources out there to keep you not only informed but connected with other POAs in the community. They include:

  • Connecting Ottawa provides a list of local resources to help you understand the legal implications of being a Power of Attorney
  • Women Living Fully is a wonderful Facebook group dedicated to chatting about all sorts of issues related to giving support
  • Meanwhile, is another interesting website that gives helpful information
  • Practice self-care

Finally, take time to recognize that you are doing your best. Trust your instincts, and go with your gut.

Discuss, discuss, discuss!

At the end of the day, my best advice for families (seniors and their adult children) is to open the lines of communication…in EVERYTHING you do.

There is no harm in having a conversation. After all, would you want someone making decisions for you when you’ve never had that discussion with them?

And if you are going to agree to be a POA, then within the same conversation you should be speaking about your loved one’s wants. This is essential information that will help ease decision-making in difficult situations.

Based in Ottawa, Tea & Toast provides retirement residence search services to seniors and their family members. Learn about working with a retirement living advisor or set up an appointment to meet with one of our advisors, contact us at or (613) 698.1319.

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