For many elderly people, a beloved pet represents their most cherished companion, which is why parting ways when moving into a care home can be a hugely stressful and often traumatic experience.
Thankfully, quite a lot of residential care homes do accept pets, allowing you and your furry friend to remain together. The question then, is how do you go about finding these pet-friendly care homes.
In this article, we’ve looked at whether or not you can take pets into a care home, the positive benefits of pets for elderly people and how to find a pet-friendly home.
Use our directory to find a care home near you.
While some care homes are unable to accept pets for health and safety reasons, many residential care homes across the UK are welcoming of new residents bringing their pets!
Your pet will either be able to live with you or in the home’s garden (depending on what kind of animal it is).
When residents who are pet owners move into a care home, a support plan is usually agreed with the pet(s) in mind.
This will include a plan for what would happen if you become too ill to care for your pet. In this case, alternative arrangements would be drawn up and carried out (such as the pet being rehoused with a charity or a family member/friend).
Remember, the most important thing is always your health and wellbeing. So, it’s important to make the right choice, both for yourself and your furry friend.
Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. In this case, the aim of pet therapy is to help elderly care home residents cope with losing the company of their lifelong pet - and the loneliness that can follow from this.
This is done by minimising stress, anxiety and depression, while also boosting self-confidence and improving social skills.
Here are a handful of the biggest advantages that pet therapy can provide to care home residents:
Though surrounded by plenty of other friendly faces, you can feel lonely and isolated when you first move into care. This is especially true when no longer in the company of their pet. Introducing pet therapy in residential care homes throughout the UK has seen plenty of positive impacts, including a decrease in depression and feelings of isolation.
Pets are often a great way to get residents exercising! Small activities like taking dogs on a short walk, cuddling them and helping to feed or groom them can reduce swelling, increase blood circulation and improve strength.
Mayo Clinic has said that “Pets help you be more active. Pets give us a reason to get outside, get some fresh air and get in some physical activity.”
Pets - particularly dogs and cats - make people feel loved and accepted, regardless of age or condition, something that not every human can provide. Pets can act as an unjudging confidant and will always lend an ear for conversation.
Pet Partners have said that “Many people find benefits in interacting with pets, from the pleasure of touching their fur to the enjoyment of an animal’s in-the-moment presence, to the unconditional, non-judgmental love pets can offer.”
This helps to explain why pets can have such a powerful impact on those living in a residential care home or nursing home, acting as a vital component of health care for many elderly residents.
The calming nature of a pet often increases levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin, while also decreasing the amount of cortisol in the body - a producer of stress. In turn, this will also decrease agitated behaviour.
The positive health benefits of pet therapy go beyond stress relief. It’s also believed that pet therapy can have a significant impact on blood pressure - with the calming presence provided by pets lowering this as well.
When speaking about the advantages and mental health benefits of pet therapy for elderly people living in care, Elisabeth from Pet Partners said that “Therapy animals offer affection, enjoyment and entertainment, and can break up a routine that might otherwise be all about medical care and required activities. They can give residents the motivation to participate in activities, exercise and treatment plans. They can ease loneliness for people who are missing their homes or their own pets and increase socialising among residents by giving them a reason to gather.”
She also said that “Interaction with therapy animals has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve perceptions of pain, stress levels and mood.”
Along with bringing back happy memories of previous pets, pet therapy can also have the positive effect of unlocking memories in Dementia residents, along with those living with Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimers.net has said that “While companionship is an obvious benefit, a well timed pet visit may also help with anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon to watch someone transition from emotionless to joyful when a pet enters the room, especially if it triggers pleasant memories.”
It’s also been reported that although pet therapy isn’t able to ‘cure’ emotions, it can make a huge difference to mindset while distracting from negative feelings.
Above everything else, pet therapy brings joy and pleasure to a huge number of elderly people - giving them something to look forward to every week. Therapy Pet has reported that “Pet therapy builds on the animal-human bond. Interacting with a friendly animal can assist in alleviating numerous mental and physical issues. Not only does it help to lower blood pressure and enhance general cardiovascular health but can also release endorphins that in turn produce a soothing effect. This can help lower stress, minimise pain and improve one’s general psychological state.”
It’s easy to understand why pets are especially popular amongst the elderly, providing invaluable companionship in later life.
Here are a handful of the biggest benefits pets can provide to the elderly:
Pets are important to so many of us, so being able to take your pet into a care home can make a big difference to your emotional wellbeing. Keeping companion animals is shown to reduce depression and anxiety.
Research shows that owning a pet - particularly a dog - is associated with a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular dementia.
When well treated, pets will offer unconditional love to their owners through thick and thin. They encourage you to exercise, providing stimulation and extra socialisation in the process. This friendship can also make the move into a care home that little bit easier.
Caring for a pet helps elderly people maintain a routine. Having this added responsibility is something you can then gain confidence from. The sense of purpose that goes with this can go a long way to further boosting wellbeing.
You can read research by the University of Lincoln and the University of Liverpool into people who have had to separate from a companion animal here.
The Cinnamon Trust is a charity that helps elderly people with the care of their pets. With this in mind, they’ve compiled a national register of care homes and retirement villages in the UK that are pet-friendly.
A little over 50% of care homes in the UK describe themselves as pet-friendly, so you shouldn’t have to look for too long to find one that fits the bill!
The staff at your care home will likely support you with feeding, exercising, grooming and cleaning your pet. Depending on your needs, they’ll either do this for you or assist you in doing it yourself.
Another important task that care home staff can help out with is taking your pet to the vet and administering any medication that it needs. Before moving into a care home, you can discuss with the manager how your new home will support you in taking care of your pet.
Many charities will look after your pets if they aren’t able to stay with you in a care home. Similarly, there may be a family member or friend who is willing to look after your pet for you. Depending on how much time they have spare, they can then bring your furry friend in for regular visits.
Again, even if pets aren’t allowed to permanently live there, many care homes will still grant permission for pets to make visits. In this case, it might be worth trying to get a family member, friend or volunteer from a local charity to look after your pet and have it regularly visit you.
Searching for an elderly care home can be a stressful and time-consuming operation. Thankfully, Lottie removes much of the difficulty from this process by connecting elderly people to the UK’s very best care homes through smart technology and years of human expertise.
Check out our list of elderly care homes across the UK here.