Jan 31, 2023

Calls for more pet-friendly aged care options

Calls for more pet-friendly aged care options

The Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN) wants to see Government-funded pet care supports introduced as part of in-home care packages and aged care, and is calling on the public to provide their input on what pet-friendly services are needed for older people.

61% of households own a pet, but without additional help for elderly pet owners, Australia CAN said the valuable human-animal bond can be broken if owner and pet are forcibly separated due to a move into aged care, impacting the health and wellbeing of older people.

Just one in five aged care homes provides pet-friendly practices, while there are no existing supports for older pet owners receiving services through Government-funded Home Care Packages (HCPs) and Commonwealth Home Support Programmes (CHSPs).

Under a new proposal, Australia CAN wants to see pet-friendly services such as feeding, exercise, grooming and assistance for vet trips funded by the Government as part of in-home care services.

To better understand the needs of the public, the organisation is reaching out to all Australians to have their say. There are three unique surveys – one for the general public, one for staff and residents in aged care, and one for people receiving in-home care services.

Australia CAN Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Trish Ennis, said the main focal point over the next few months will be on in-home care as the Government is considering pet care and support as part of the Support at Home Program which is set to come into effect in July 2024.

“We know that the human-animal bond is great for mental health, for being loved and for keeping a positive attitude, and it’s great for physical activity and movement,” said Ms Ennis.

“The Government’s always talking about trying to get people to stay in their homes as long as they can, which is terrific, but they have to help older people.

“We are going to the Government to include pet care as part of in-home care packages, that way older people can receive support for community vet costs, or they might have someone that will come in and walk or feed their dog. 

“A lot of our member services will also take pets on respite when people go into the hospital and it’d be great to have those services funded, at least because they’re all charities and they’re surviving just to help the pets and maintain the animal-human bond.”

Ms Ennis said it was also not uncommon for people to avoid moving into aged care, either, as they do not want to leave their pet behind or put them up for adoption due to severe feelings of loss and grief.

She said this is an often traumatic experience for pets as well, as they are put up for adoption in animal shelters, or are often euthanised as they cannot be rehomed.

“When someone moves into aged care you’re asking them to give up their whole life apart from what fits in one room, so they’re giving up their house, they’re giving up their belonging,” said Ms Ennis.

“Now, on top of that, they’re asking them to give up their best friend because they can’t take them into residential care which is a very, very difficult thing.”

To help, Australia CAN have developed a series of pet-friendly policies that can better educate aged care providers on how they can support pets in aged care so residents can maintain a close connection to their pet.

Ms Ennis said the policies address concerns such as residents tripping over pets and potential animal allergies.

Aged care provider Lifeview also provided input on the policies as one provider that does cater for residents and their pets.

“We have special policies around bringing your own pet with you,” said Lifeview CEO Samatha Jewell to Pooches at Play.

“It’s important that the resident can still look after that pet, or their family can come in and assist to look after the pet, and when the resident can no longer look after the pet the family do take the pet home.”

To complete one of Australia CAN’s surveys, visit their website here.

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  1. My mother had pets; dogs, cats and birds for much of her life. I have found that while Age Care Facilities allow dogs to visit and may even have birds which are cared for by individual residents or staff that it is largely lip service.

    At the facility where my mother lives it is the multicultural staff who are the biggest opposition to having pets.

    My current dog-miniature groodle is trained to therapy dog level.

    I now refuse to take my dog into the dementia care ward in which my mother lives. The majority of the multicultural staff would run and hide in the ward’s kitchen or the ward nurse’s station and refuse to come out while the dog was in the ward.

    My mother interacted with the dog as did other residents. The dog soon worked out which residents did not want to be associated with him and he stayed away from them and was trained to do so while on the “job”.

    The local Australian staff appreciated the therapy dog and could react and use the necessary commands, to enhance the therapy aspect of the dog’s visit.

    I stopped taking the dog after one staff member on repeated occasions consistently encouraged the dog to break his commands and behave in a manner not conducive to the therapy role he was engaged in.

    Staff are meant to respect the culture of the residents. This is an age care standard. The largely animal fearing attitudes and culture of the multinational and Asian staff do not respect or accept the pet friendly culture of the residents. They need to be educated how to engage with animals and to live the Age Care Quality Standards whilst they are in the resident’s “home”. I can not see Service Providers doing this. Many Service Providers are also workplace trainers. They do not even train their staff to speak in everyday English language in order to speak/communicate with the residents let alone tackle a missing cultural element of the residents such as pets.

    In the 10 year experience of my mothers age care tenure the deteriorating staff culture is the weakest link.

  2. If this in regard to pets in aged care facilities, I have witnessed cruelty to animals from residents and staff. Ani als are the most voiceless and vulnerable meme bees of our society.

    There is also the issue of people who are allergic or scared to/of animals and how someone’s pet can be kept at a safe distance from those with allergies/scared.

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