Pets in Assisted Living Communities Shown to Boost Seniors’ Health

In some assisted living communities, dogs and cats can accompany their owners, and sometimes there are pets in assisted living communities (and in nursing homes) that are owned by the facility and enjoyed by the residents. A growing consensus among assisted living residents and staff alike is that pets bring health, connection, and a sense of home.

Not every assisted living community has a pet program. They’re growing in popularity at a rapid rate, and for good reason. Studies show that when seniors interact with pets, depression and loneliness decrease while socialization and conversation rise. Part of the reason is that pets are not judgmental and they don’t see age or disability. In addition to offering unconditional love, lowering blood pressure, helping fight depression and loneliness, and easing loss, pets in assisted living communities keep seniors active.

Consider these statistics from the Pets for the Elderly Foundation:

• 95% of seniors talk to their pet or a visiting pet
• 82% say pets help when they feel sad
• 71% say pets make them feel better when they feel physically bad
• 65% say touching a pet soothes them
• 57% confide in a pet

“Taking care of a pet is a way to engage residents,” says Paul Kelley, senior director of Operations for Sunrise Senior Living. “Many stay active by filling water bowls and taking trips to a pet store for treats. Sharing care can also be a bonding opportunity for residents and staff alike. And for residents who are used to being cared for, it’s a nice change for them to step into a caregiver role as they become responsible for an animal’s well-being.”

It has also been shown that pets are good for Alzheimer’s patients. They, too, need to belong, love and be accepted. Pets give unconditional love. Alzheimer’s patients say the most incredible things in the presence of a pet.

There are common challenges with animals in any community living situation, however, including allergies or just a lack of affinity for dogs or cats. Whatever the potential challenges, the upsides seem to far outweigh the downsides. For some residents, time with their own pet, daily rounds from a community dog or cat, or weekly therapy visits can be the highlight of their day.

Do you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care? Whether you are looking for a facility that allows pets or not, if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), now is the time. Please call The Fairfax Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a consultation. While you are here, you will have the opportunity to meet our delightful Siamese cats, bunny, Betta fish, African dwarf frogs, and dog!

P.S. Don’t forget about your pet! Read our recent post about Pet Trusts and be sure to include them in your planning. In addition, be sure to sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to read “Critter Corner” each Friday, where our pets answer elder law and estate planning questions.

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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