A majority of people love their pets because they enrich lives in multiple ways. About two thirds of households have various domestic animals in the United States according to research. Seniors, in particular, are fond of their furry friends. It is with good reason because spending even a few minutes with the pets makes older adults feel great.
The science behind this is that bonding with the animals for around 15 minutes sets off a chemical reaction in the brain. In turn, this increases the production of serotonin - a feel-good hormone, and it also lowers the levels of cortisol, a flight or fight hormone.
In the past, older adults were forced to part with their beloved companions after moving into a retirement community. Things are different nowadays because there is an ever-increasing number of pet friendly assisted living facilities that allow residents to stay with their pets. Management of such senior homes realizes that pets in the lives of aging individuals give them new meaning in life as well as enhance their well-being.
In this article:
Benefits from pets in assisted living facilities
Who takes care of pets in assisted living facilities
How pets affect senior citizens
How pets help with dementia, Alzheimer's and Sundowner's Syndrome
How pets make the assisted living transition process easier
What kind of pets do assisted living facilities allow?
Questions to ask pet-friendly assisted living facilities
Adopting pets for assisted living
Helping pets transition to assisted living
Choosing the right pets for assisted senior living communities
Pets are reliable companions that motivate the older generation to socialize and stay active. Furthermore, retirees get numerous perks after long-term interaction with their favorite animals, including:
Reduces Depression - having pets around has shown to decrease the risk of anxiety and depression. It is especially true for an older adult who has just lost their spouse, has fears about moving from the comforts of their home, or has received a terminal diagnosis.
Lowers Stress - staying with animals increases the production of happy hormones in the body which in turn significantly decreases or eliminates stress.
Eases Agitation - memory care residents in senior housing apartments are quick to become agitated. Caregivers, however, report that when they are residents of pet friendly senior housing and in the company of their beloved pets, they are calmer.
Enhances Mental Stimulation - taking care of pets can help senior citizens remain sharp. Note that when it comes to brain health the saying “use it or lose it” applies. Looking after the pets can help to ward off dementia symptoms. Learning how to look after particular dog or cat breeds, brushing them and learning how to train them are some of the things that keep neurons on their toes. The responsibility of looking after another living creature can also help to offer structure in seniors’ daily lives.
Increases Levels of Physical Activity - staying with pets keeps retirees more active. Simple acts of looking after the lovely creatures such as walking them or cleaning and feeding them introduce an aspect of exercise in the owner’s life, which is fantastic for their health.
Enhances Appetite - retirees who keep pets are most likely to eat more food than the ones who do not have their favorite pets around.
May Reduce Pain Levels- because pet owners enjoy increased physical activity levels, it is possible that it can also help to reduce the pain that a person is experiencing. Increased physical activity associated with pet ownership also helps to lower pain that arthritis patients feel.
Reduces Blood Pressure - reduced stress levels that the pets evoke can lead to lowering/normalizing of blood pressure. Aging individuals who frequently interact with cats, dogs, or other animals are less likely to experience spikes in blood pressure than the ones who do not stay with their animals.
Help with Faster Healing - caregivers also observe that animal companions can help seniors to recover faster after they are taken ill and given permission to recuperate in their living spaces.
Improved Socialization - pets can reduce the feelings of isolation in the elderly. Research reveals that people are more likely to smile more and interact with each other in the presence of dogs, cats and other animals. It goes to show that pet therapy evokes outgoing, social behavior and conversation.
Reduced Verbal Aggression - studies also show that elders with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other memory care issues are less likely to experience verbal aggression if they are spending time with pets. It is safe to say that domestic animals have a positive influence on such populations.
Excellent Tools for Sundowning - experts agree that presence of the beautiful creatures can make inhabitants of assisted living facilities feel at peace in the evenings.
Judgement Free Friendships - the friendships that retirees form with their pets are free of judgment and are pure. It is something that can make them feel better about themselves which can result in better self-esteem and self-awareness to enjoy brighter days in their new assisted living homes.
Assisted living facilities encourage occupants to remain as independent as possible. The same translates to care for pets because the senior residents cannot neglect their pets if they are to serve their purpose well.
Seniors are normally in charge of looking after their pets while in assisted living facilities. It includes things like making sure they are well-fed, clean, they engage in exercise, and vaccinations are up-to-date. However, if a senior citizen is not in a position to complete the tasks safely in a satisfactory manner, they usually get assistance from expert caregivers.
The professionals ensure that both the older adults and the animals receive top-notch care and they remain happy for extended periods to enjoy mutually beneficial relationships. Some luxury assisted living residences even employ pet care coordinators who are responsible for overseeing veterinary care, pet health and vaccines. It ensures that the pets are well groomed, walked, fed and happy.
The advantages of pet-therapy can be life-changing. For instance, if a senior decides to walk their pet, they enjoy cardiovascular exercise that is good for their health. Other simple acts of caring for their furry friends that include brushing, petting and feeding offer light activity and an avenue for staying engaged with the rest of the universe.
Because cats, dogs and other pets provide unconditional support, elderly citizens also feel like they are still needed while looking after their precious animals, which can translate to a greater sense of self-worth and purpose in their senior years.
The pets can also help with increased socialization, which is a huge plus during the post-retirement years, because this time can be quite a lonely time for many. Seniors can make strong friendship bonds with people who keep the same pets in the assisted living facilities.
The animals are also excellent icebreakers for people who may want to start conversations, but they do not know where to start. Some employees in the senior care homes agree that responsibility of caring for pets among retirees helps to build self-esteem.
Pets are not only beneficial to their owners. They help to increase social activity for all the occupants inside a senior living facility. There are times when new residents may not be very communicative and withdraw from the rest of the community. First interactions with the pets can draw them out of their cocoons as the animals have a way of pulling them out of their shells so that they can have a blast in their new living quarters.
Numerous senior living communities look after retirees with memory care issues. Pet therapy offers a significant hand in that it helps to reduce confusion and agitation in the inhabitants who experience sundowners’ syndrome that usually occurs during the evening. The general acceptance of the pet animals combined with their non-verbal communication can be soothing for the aging individuals who have challenges using language.
Caregivers also report that even the most profoundly affected patients end up displaying social interaction, improved appetite, cognitive and tactile stimulation after spending quality time with their pets. The love and emotional support that the pets offer are unparalleled.
Packing and leaving for assisted living centers or pet friendly senior apartments is usually not an easy task for many retirees. Leaving behind their familiar and furnished homes that they probably knew for numerous years can bring about feelings of loneliness and withdrawal. Pets play a significant role during these difficult times.
They can help a person to settle in much faster at an assisted living facility as they streamline older adults’ lives, helping them focus on comfort, medications and a few possessions they love. The animals also give them much-needed companionship, especially when their grandkids and children are not in a position to visit as often as the older adults would wish.
The type of domestic animal that senior citizens can bring to assisted living facilities depends on the regulations of the particular facility. A majority have varying policies regarding weight limit and breed restrictions. Common pets you can find in assisted living facilities include:
You will also find some assisted living communities that have other animals on-site, specifically for the purpose of asking older adults to help care for the animals. Such animals may include:
• Miniature horses
• Baby kangaroos
There are a couple of questions you can ask the management of the pet-friendly assisted living facilities to find the best one that suits the elder's needs. It ensures elderly adults find a place where they will enjoy utmost comfort to have the best of times with their favorite pet in their golden years. Questions to ask the senior care facility include:
Not all senior citizens have pets that they can move to their new living quarters. It does not mean that they should stay without them if they wish to have the animal companion in their lives. There is an option of adopting their favorite domestic animals from shelters or programs that facilitate the process.
It helps to make sure that a retiree is rarely lonely, as they will have a “friend” they can rely on round the clock. Thankfully, the relevant authorities reduce adoption fees for seniors who are above the age of sixty-five because they know they make excellent pet owners. Professionals recommend that the senior citizens should go for the older pets who are well trained and have mellower temperaments.
Seniors may also want to consider alternatives to pet ownership. It comes in handy when an individual does not have the stamina or financial means to own a pet. Assisted living facilities can organize trips to rescue groups and shelters where they always need volunteers to help with care for rabbits, birds, cats, dogs, and other animals. Some assisted living facilities even run foster opportunities that allow senior citizens to take their favorite animals home for a while to offer one-on-one attention.
The facilities can also host activities that include therapy animals so that senior citizens can get the benefits that the pets give without necessarily having to live with them.
While thinking about moving to pet-friendly senior living communities, occupants also have to support their beloved animals in transitioning to the new lifestyle. They can do this by introducing the pets to other residents and staff members slowly.
Be sure to ask beforehand if the individuals are comfortable with the animals. For instance, you must accommodate the requests of the other residents in assisted living facilities who are scared of dogs or cats or have allergic reactions to cats or other pets since you cannot force them to interact with your pet.
If someone wants to keep their pets in upbeat spirits at all times, they can try and stick to the same schedule that they had in their previous home. Try and go to bed and wake up at the same time and stick to their food and snacks so that they are not overwhelmed by the move.
Bringing in their toys and beds as well as helping the pets with exercise can also help them to settle in an assisted living community much faster and help them continue a loving relationship that benefits both the senior and the pet.
Only the right types of pets will enable senior citizens to enjoy all the benefits that are associated with pet ownership. Keep in mind that a very active puppy may not be the ideal companion for a disabled older adult or one who is not capable of running after an active dog for example. If an older person wants to benefit from keeping a pet in assisted living facilities that welcome pets, here are a few factors to consider when choosing the perfect animal companion.
For starters, it is best to seek the opinion of the senior citizen on the type of animal they want to spend their post-retirement years with. If the owner cannot participate in vigorous physical activities like walking a dog, they can get a cat, fish, or bird that require less care. It is also important to consider the temperament of the pets before getting them for the elderly to ensure that they can spend quality time together without any complications.
If an older adult does not want to live their formative later years without their pet that they love so much, they are better off in a retirement community that is pet-friendly. Here, they are most likely to exhibit less stress and enjoy calmer days and evenings as they spend time with their pets. It is evident that seniors who reside in pet-friendly assisted living facilities that allow them to live with pets are happier, healthier and live longer. It is because the cuddly creatures show affection, play, make seniors smile and snuggle without demanding too much in return.