Pet subject for aged care

Australian households have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, yet it doesn’t carry through to aged care services, according to a study by the Animal Welfare League of Australia (AWLA).

The 2017 AWLA Pets in Aged Care Study revealed that while 63 per cent of Australian households were pet owners, only 18 per cent of residential aged care facilities allowed pets to reside with their owners.

Those ageing in their own home can’t always access the support to keep their pets either, with only 9 per cent of in-home services saying that they offer pet friendly services.

The result is that many seniors are forced to give away or surrender their beloved family pets when they make the move to aged care.

According to AWLA figures, about 7 percent of surrenders are directly related to the necessity for aged care.

This figure is believed to be higher when taking in other issues facing senior pet owners such as unsuitable pet accommodation and lack of financial means to take care of a pet. An estimated 9600 surrenders to the RSPCA were senior-related.

“Elderly people moving into aged care can already feel a level of sadness due to leaving their family home and this sense of loss can be even more profound when they need to separate from their much-loved pets,” says Seasons Aged Care chief executive officer Nick Loudon.

“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 affect across to other residents and staff.” Aged services that support and encourage pet ownership may be in the minority, but the wide-ranging health benefits of pets for seniors is well documented.

Pet ownership helps to decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, while increasing social interaction, providing purpose and meaning and improving the quality of life of owners.

Further benefits of pet friendly aged care services include:
• Eases the transition to aged care
• Reduces feelings of loneliness
• Health benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and increased aerobic activity.
• Greater uptake of aged care services due to not having to surrender their much-loved pet
• Reduces animal surrender rates to shelters
• Helps increase feelings of independence
• Boosts morale and happiness for both staff and residents