Jul 11, 2023

Sector needs to stop avoiding the topic of pets in aged care

Earlier this year, CANA called for Government-funded pet care supports to be introduced as part of in-home care and residential aged care packages. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Studies show pets offer myriad physical and mental health benefits for people, such as reducing stress, providing companionship, and encouraging social interactions
  • Despite 86% of older people experiencing improved mental and physical health with pets in aged care settings, only a small number of facilities in Australia allow pets or animals
  • 40% of older people who receive a Home Care Package (HCP) have pets but only 9% of them receive pet care support, such as walking their dog (64% need help) and taking their pet to the vet (62% need help)

The Federal Government and aged care providers are still dragging their feet to allow pets in aged care facilities and extend support to those living independently at home with their furry friends. 

Many older people are forced to give up their pets when entering aged care which is often a detrimental and traumatising experience. But according to Companion Animal Network Australia (CANA) research, only 18% of aged care facilities consider allowing residents to keep a companion animal.

Furthermore, for older people living at home, 91% of those with pets who receive a government-funded HCP do not receive support to help to care for their companion animal

CANA’s Chief Executive, Trish Ennis, said facilities and the Federal Government have been slow to address these poor statistics. 

“People are putting their lives on the line when they refuse to move into aged care because they can’t bring their pet with them. If people were allowed to keep their pets, aged care take-up by older people will increase and the number of pets being surrendered to animal shelters will decrease.”

Ms Ellis and her colleagues are calling for urgent action to keep older people and their pets together to ease loneliness and prevent unnecessary surrenders.

Earlier this year, CANA called for Government-funded pet care supports to be introduced as part of home care and residential aged care packages. 

In February, Researchers at the University of South Australia also explored a practical model of hosting companion animals in aged care, including foster animals and personal pets and called for the Federal Government to mandate financial support for pets in aged care to help improve the mental health and well-being of residents.

Some aged care providers are trying to find solutions – Queensland provider, Carinity, has introduced robotic pets into all 12 of its homes, offering life-like companionship, just like real cats and dogs, without the daily care needs that are challenging for older people with limited mobility or declining cognitive abilities.

But this solution isn’t helping address the chronic overpopulation crisis playing out in Australian animal rescues and fostering organisations. 

“Increasing the number of pet-friendly in-home aged care support will also help to prevent animals from being euthanised or surrendered to shelters and maximise the physical and emotional health of animal-loving older people,” Ms Ennis said.

You can support CANA by visiting the Pet Friendly Aged Care Survey.

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