A researcher at the University of South Australia has called for more aged care homes to allow their residents to keep pets.
Dr Janette Young, a lecturer in health sciences, made a formal submission to the aged care royal commission, calling on more homes to be accepting of animals in a country where one in two over 65s keep pets.
Young pointed to the many health benefits of having a pet and said that for people in aged care pets can provide companionship, social interaction and a sense of purpose that may otherwise be lacking.
“While 64 per cent of Australian households have a pet, a 2018 Animal Welfare League report found that only 18 per cent of residential aged care facilities allowed residents to live with a pet,” Young said. “This is despite all the evidence showing how important the human-animal bond is to people, perhaps even more so as they age.”
Many aged care facilities provide pet therapy or have robotic therapy animals, but Young said this ignores the bond that occurs between an owner and their pet.
“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.
“From an economic perspective, there are also potential health savings in allowing pets in aged care settings. Happier residents cut both pharmaceutical costs and staff time (in managing poor behaviour). In turn, these savings could be used to fund animal carers.”
Young also believes that being able to keep pets can ease the transition into aged care for an older person.
“Indeed, older pet owners can be forced to either relinquish their pets to family members, animal welfare bodies or euthanise them in the event of entering aged care.
“It is distressing enough having to leave their home and move into aged care but leaving a pet behind – or ending its life due to circumstances beyond their control – only magnifies this stress,” Young said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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