Research shows that aged care facilities should allow residents to keep pets

Aged-care residents would be better off if more nursing homes allowed them to keep pets, a University of South Australia researcher says.

UniSA health sciences lecturer Dr Janette Young has urged aged-care homes to give the green light to pets in a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, saying people giving up beloved animals added to the traumatic process of moving into care.

She told the Sunday Mail her research had found having pets had stopped some older people from taking their lives.

A 2018 Animal Welfare League report found just 18 per cent of aged-care facilities allowed residents to have a pet.

“While many aged-care homes do provide regular contact with animals in the form of visiting therapy animals, this ignores the unique bond between an individual and an animal who knows them, loves them and accepts them unequivocally,” Dr Young said.

“There’s growing global evidence of the negative health impacts of loneliness, including a shorter life span.

“Pets can help fill this void – often more so than trying to create human social support networks, which can be forced.”

 Dr Young said more research was needed about how pets could be introduced without overwhelming staff and residents, or triggering pet allergies.

Salisbury Downs resident Dawn Young, 72, said she hoped she would be able to take her cavalier King Charles spaniel Bobby with her if she ever moved into an aged-care home.

“I’m sure it would soften the blow (of having to leave home),” she said.

“When you’ve got to take care of something, it’s really good for you. You need to get up and feed it and take it for walks and exercise.”

Mrs Young has had dogs for most of her life and said they provided “constant companionship”. “You’ve always got someone to talk to and Bobby always agrees with me,” she said.

This article was originally published in The Advertiser on on 11/8/19 by Adam Langenberg.