Cuddle power: How pets have found their home in aged care

Aged care homes are increasingly welcoming pets through the door, and with emerging evidence of the benefits of having a pet, it’s not hard to see why.

Nursing homes and retirement villages used to be pet-free zones, with residents giving up their pets when they joined the community. But with research showing there may be health benefits in having pets around, more and more aged care homes are welcoming pets of all kinds. 

The benefits of pets

Research shows that simply having pets around can help to boost health and wellbeing, and the benefits can also be seen socially, emotionally and even cognitively. 

Owning and caring for a dog, for example, can encourage increased levels of motivation and physical activity, and can provide an all-important feeling of companionship and being needed. Owning a pet may also help some people deal better with stress and grief.

Some research has also found that dog and cat owners make fewer visits to the doctor and spend less time in hospital; they also tend to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure than non-pet owners. 

Pet love

The love and companionship offered by pets is particularly important in residential care, where a much loved pet can help ease the transition from home to aged care home. Pets can also help boost morale, improve quality of life and provide valuable insights about the residents.

“Even if language is a problem, everyone can pat a dog,” says Lisa Myers, General Manager of Bupa Aged Care – Windsor. “Their faces light up. There’s nothing better than giving an animal a cuddle.”

As many people will have had a pet at some point in their life, animals can also be a great conversation starter. Lisa says the conversations that begin with pets can be particularly valuable, as they often reveal snippets of information that allows carers to build a better understanding of what’s important to the resident.

“There’s nothing better than giving an animal a cuddle.”

A place to call home

While there are challenges in bringing pets into residential aged care facilities, research suggests that the benefits far outweigh the demands, and there’s no reason why pets can’t be an integral part of aged care homes in the same way they are part of the wider community.

A case in point is Christal the dog, who has lived at Bupa Aged Care – Windsor for three years. She became a resident after her owner, Rosemary, requested that Christal move into the home with her. 

“We welcomed that, because Christal was very much a part of Rosemary’s life, and I feel that has kept Rosemary young,” Lisa says. 

“The home that I’m trying to build, and that my residents have told me they want, is one that closely resembles the type of home that they had come from.” 

Bupa Aged Care

Bupa Aged Care Services. Bupa Aged Care, offers a full range of care including respite, residential and specialised dementia care.

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