Can you Bring Your Own pet into an Aged Care Facility?

For any pet owner the very thought of not having your furry best friend by your side can be devastating. This does not change as one gets older, in fact quite the opposite.

With an increasing number of older people living alone, those with pets may find the only conversation they have for days is in fact with their dog or cat. That said it doesn’t come as a surprise that when the time comes and seniors really need to move into aged care homes, people with pets make the choice to stay in their home for longer, even if it’s means it can be a struggle day in and day out. But it’s better than leaving their pet behind and moving into care without them.

There are a number of aged care facilities in Australia that allow seniors to move in with their pets although there is a shortage in comparison to seniors with pets. Which often means those looking for an aged care facility where their pet can come too, often need to compromise on what they may want or a particular location. Which is often something they are open to if it means their pet can come too.
The Animal Welfare League Australia’s website lists pet friendly aged care facilities in Australia and have some great resources available about moving into aged care with a pet.

Things to consider when finding a new home for seniors & their pet

There usually is an expectation that the resident or relative is able to assist with the maintenance and management of the pet.
Whilst there are aged care facilities that allow pets, often each new admission is considered case-by-case basis. A number of considerations need to be made to ensure it’s the most suitable outcome for the pet and also for the resident and co-residents.
A behavioural assessment of dogs may also be undertaken by a qualified behavioural trainer. Pets to be fully vaccinated, dogs/cats de-sexed and registered.

Video Caption: This teacup poodle rides elevators to visit friends by USA Today

What are the alternatives if you can’t find a facility for you and your pet?

If you are unable to find a facility that will allow you to move in with your pet, then the next best option is consider if the facility is either Pet Friendly or they offer Pet Therapy Program. Whilst this does not compare to having your pet live in with you it’s an alternative that allows you the ability to continue to enjoy companionship from you pet.

What is Pet Friendly or Pet Therapy Program?

Pet Friendly, simply means that the facility allows pets to visit.

Pet Therapy Program, utilises trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive, and emotional goals with residents.

Pet Therapy Program Explained

Pet therapy, is a type of therapy involving animals as a form of treatment. As mentioned above, the goal may be to improve a resident’s emotional, social and or cognitive function.

Pet therapy can also be used in the community to support seniors living in their own homes and those who have had extended length of stay in a hospital. The main types of pets used are dogs, cats and animal farms.

Are there health benefits to Pet Therapy Programs for seniors?

Over the years there have been a number of research studies that have shown significant positive findings around the benefits of Pet Therapy Programs for people living in aged care facilities.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Lower risk of depression
  • Increased social interaction
  • Seniors naturally become more active
  • Pets can provide love and acceptance in their own special way that can help seniors feel content.
  • Provide a sense of security
  • Assist with transition into an aged care facility
  • Mood and passive behaviour
  • Cognitive stimulation and reminiscence therapy, as pets are capable of stimulating short and long term memories of their owners’ past pets, helping to improve mood and stimulate emotions.

Another study, reported a reduction in agitation, aggression, empathy, increased relaxation and lowering of blood pressure.

Dementia Behavioural Memory Assist Service also looked at how pet therapy programs can assist people with dementia. For additional information or if you want to learn more about how pet therapy can assist people with dementia in particular have a look at Guidelines to Animal Assisted Therapy.

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