Should more pets be allowed in aged care facilities?


Seniors are being forced to leave their pets behind when they move into aged care.

A study by the Animal Welfare League of Australia found that while 63 per cent of Australian households have a pet, only 18 per cent of residential aged care facilities allow residents to live with a pet.

And while you might think that being cared for in your own home means you will be able to keep your pet by your side, only 9 per cent of home care services offer pet friendly care.

Pets a positive “ripple effect” among residents and staff

Moving into aged care can be a distressing time. Many going into aged care feel sad to be leaving their homes and friends and families, and these feelings can be magnified if they also have to leave behind a much-loved pet.

Seasons Aged Care Chief Executive, Nick Loudon, says, “Part of the reason that we encourage pet ownership within Seasons communities is that when a resident is strongly bonded to their pet and the care of that pet is well-supported, there are huge benefits for that resident which creates a ripple effect across to other residents and staff.”

Despite a general reluctance by many aged care providers to accommodate pets, there is widespread acceptance that owning a pet is good for the elderly, both physically and mentally.

Combating loneliness

One of the biggest problems among seniors is social isolation, and pets can be a great way to combat loneliness.

Tracey Silvester, Executive Manager of Envigor Home Care, told 9 News Perth, “For a lot of elderly people,  if they have a pet, that pet it their only social interaction.

Ms Silvester said the impact of loneliness on the mental and physical health of older people is akin to the effects of long-term smoking and obesity – when pets provide companionship, their senior’s mental and physical health improves.

“People who own a pet attend their GPS 15 per cent less often,” Ms Silvester said.

“So it’s really important that people who own a pet are allowed to keep their pet, particularly as they move into alternative accommodation,” she said.

The benefits of allowing pets to live in aged care facilities

The benefits of allowing pets to live in nursing homes are well established:

  • Being allowed to take a pet into aged care can ease the transition of the move
  • Pets can reduce feelings of loneliness
  • Pets can reduced levels of stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and increased aerobic activity
  • More people may choose to live in aged care facilities if they are allowed to take their pet with them
  • Lower number of pets taken to animal shelters
  • Pets create a sense of independence for their owners
  • Pets in nursing home boost the morale of both staff and residents

Seasons resident, Faye, was allowed to bring her dog, Jackie, with her when she moved into the community.

“I didn’t want to leave my own home. But now I call Seasons home because I could bring Jackie,” she said.

What’s the solution?

Of course, it’s not always going to be possible for elderly people to keep their pet with them when they moved into aged care. They may have become too frail to care for it any longer, or they may not have the financial means to look after it. Some pets – for example large dogs – might not be appropriate for nursing homes.

However, it’s well established that pets are good for seniors, for several reasons, and also have benefits for other residents and nursing home staff.

Perhaps it’s time for more aged care facilities to look for ways to make it possible for residents to bring their pets with them, so animal companions can continue to support and accompany their owners through the next phase of their life.

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  1. Absolutely agree . Without sounding like a cuuble promotion.. We have allowed for pets to be configured in our image based address book . A wide range of pet types and their names including horses for those that have them. We take this information and automatically configure that into the users emergency information along with doctor and medication and alike. In emergencies, pets may hide under a bed so they get forgotten if unknown. Our pet care functions makes it easy to obtain provisions, grooming and vet messages. And all accessible.

    On the practical side its the noise or hygiene issues . But the upside is dog walking clubs or small business development.

  2. I agree with pets visiting aged care facilities – I am not a believer in a pet being kept on the premises – a facility where my mother was treated the little dog disgracefully – the residents were upset at how she was treated – thankfully this little dog has now gone to a good home and only visits

    I know many people would not agree with my sentiment – but even currently where my mother is a little bird is kept in a cage (the previous one was left outside where it died of heat) and just exists – it is not given green grass or given a sprinkle in the hot months – my experience with all the birds we have ever owned loved to have a splash in the sprinkler – I have cleaned out its cage a number of times and bring in grass – NO am not an advocate for pets permanently living in facilities anymore.

  3. I would like to tease apart this story.

    Pets are terrific and I have seen a great variety – birds, cats, dogs, pigs and chooks in residential care. I love animals and had a marvellous time chasing the manager’s dog round the yard the other day at the memory support unit I was reviewing. The residents could love the dog but didnt have to look after him.

    Some communities offer independent living – and I feel this is a great opportunity to allow pets to remain with their owner.
    Some residential care facilities have birds and animals onsite that dont belong to a resident, but are available to all. They are cared for by the facility. Great idea.

    I see the challenge for residents who want to bring their pet into residential care. They are usually coming into residential care because they are no longer able to care for themselves at home. This could get tricky about who would care for their pet within the facility.

  4. Residential Aged Care Facilities typically offer a bed in a room with shared lounge, kitchen, dining, laundry facilities. At best you get your own room with an ensuite. How are people assessed as needing care going to look after their own pet who may not cope with communal living? What about residents that are allergic or frightened of animals? Definitely allow them to visit but it is hard enough to get proper care for humans as it is without adding pets to the mix. Seasons Aged Care offers private self contained apartments which sounds more like a retirement village and both kinds of facilities have plenty of opportunities for social interaction so loneliness should not be a problem..

  5. I am a 73 year old living in my own home in a residential village , I live alone and have no family living near by. The village does not allowed pets. I had a letter from my doctor to the Management suggesting having a pet would be a benefit as I suffer anxiety which I am being treated for. Is there any one who might be able to help me convince management that there is evidence pets are a benefit to the elderly and maybe they should reassess why they don’t allow pets.

  6. I thoroughly agree. My mum is missing her fur baby and it is causing depression and anger too. One of the issues I think is how staff can care for pets I.e. walking or cleaning up after them. Staffing is too low as it is.

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