Pets in Assisted Living
Pets can play a central role in our lives at any age. For many older people, especially those living alone, pets are an important source of comfort and companionship. The myriad jobs involved in caring for a pet bring a calming sense of routine and responsibility to daily life. Just a few minutes spent in the company of a beloved pet can lower our blood pressure and decrease our stress levels. It may even lower our risk of heart disease.
Unfortunately, as your parent ages, their ability to care for themselves and their pet may decline. You may begin to feel that living at home is no longer safe and desirable for your loved one. Yet your parent still wants to keep their furry companion. What can be done?
The good news is that Mom may not have to separate from her beloved friend. More and more assisted living facilities are recognizing the unique bond between pets and the elderly. They realize that caring for a pet keeps residents active and engaged, which ultimately leads to healthier, happier lives.
Here’s what you need to know about pets in assisted living.
You’ll need to do your research. Not all assisted living facilities can accommodate pets, so you’ll need to ask each one about their policy. It never hurts to ask, even if you think the answer will be no. Repeated requests for a service are what ultimately leads to change. For those assisted living facilities that do allow pets, the temperament of the pet is often an important factor. This might be a good time to invest in dog obedience classes.
You’ll want to be clear about policies. Many pet-friendly assisted living communities have limits on the type and number of pets allowed. They may allow only cats or small dogs, for example. Some may require that a resident can care for their pet independently, others may offer assistance. It is not uncommon for the community director to ask to meet the pet. Remember, that it is in everyone’s best interests that the match between community and pet is a good one. If a chosen community determines that Dad’s dog is not a good fit, don’t give up. If a family member can take Fido in, the community may still allow regular visits.
The community might help with care. A pet-friendly assisted living facility may offer a range of services to help your loved one care for their companion. They might include litter box detail as part of light housekeeping, or offer a dog walking service. They may even offer grooming assistance. Ask if veterinary care assistance is available. Some communities provide transportation to and from veterinary appointments, or can arrange to have a vet visit to care of routine vaccinations. Other communities include an errand service so Mom doesn’t have to worry about shopping for food and other supplies.
You can help the situation work. Choose accommodations that are large enough for your loved one and their pet. If Mom’s dog is anxious or protective, a small bonus room where he can stay when company visits will help everyone relax. Choose a community that has safe fenced areas or well-lit paths for walking. Encourage all visitors to help with your loved one’s pet in any way they can. Can a grandchild play with the cat while you and Mom talk? Can a friend stop by to walk the dog if Dad isn’t feeling up to it? Could someone bring a new dog toy occasionally or make sure that kibble is well-stocked? Don’t forget to take steps to help the pet adjust to its new surroundings. A few minutes of planning can help ensure that your loved one’s pet will continue to be a welcome community member.