Should Assisted Living Facilities Accept Pets?

David Besnette

Let me know what you think in the comments. Are you for pets in an assisted living facility, or against?

This is such a loaded, and sometimes heated topic (almost akin to the great smoking debate). I do get inquiries and questions almost daily about helping people to find assisted living facilities that either accept pets, or that don’t take them.

Pets in assisted living facilities

On either side of the aisle of this topic, you’ll find people, families and seniors who will passionately argue their case.

I’m not a ‘dog lover’ although I am a very big animal rights person (I am also vegetarian because of this). I do think that I can see both sides of this debate, and that there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer.

Let’s Consider:

Facilities That Accept Pets: This, of course, is great for those residents and families that already have a furry friend, or for seniors who live at home and will likely be moving to an assisted living environment soon, they won’t have to give up their four-legged family member.

And let’s also remember that pets are often times considered ‘therapy.’ They are stimulating, can encourage strong emotional bonds, and even memories, with those who have memory disorders, or may be prone to isolation or anti-social behaviors. Pets can serve as ‘ice-breakers’ for social situations, and can present someone with a “purpose” in life – taking care of another being.

Certainly, there are countless benefits that a pet may offer, even in an assisted living residence.

Facilities That Don’t Accept Pets: I’ve witnessed people get angry, and almost hostile when they can’t include their pet wherever they go. They believe it’s their ‘right’ and that their dog or cat is part of the family.

However, I’m in the camp that pets are not for everyone, for a number reasons. Allergies, being near the top of the list. I would submit that it would be almost impossible to get 10 random people together around a dog or cat and have every one of the 10 not be allergic in some form or another. It has also been my experience that dogs like to bark, and will do so often, no matter how well ‘trained’ they are. I need my sleep, and a barking dog in an assisted living facility would be dreadful.

Additionally, I would probably accurately guess that if a resident of an assisted living home has a pet, and is able to take care of it now – meaning today, that might not be the case tomorrow if their condition such as Alzheimer’s gets worse or health issues surface. What to do then? Does the facility owner or staff have to ‘adopt’ this pet now, and take care of it, possibly taking time away from the other residents, and their care?

My great aunt had a cat, and lived with it at her facility, but when her health got to where ‘Tatters’ was not being cared for, it was heartbreaking to have to give the cat up to a shelter.

Unfortunately, I think that in most cases, I believe that it has to be an all-or-nothing policy, unless the facility is so big that ‘pet people’ can be separate from the ‘non’ folks. As you research facility options, I would highly recommend knowing, in-detail, and in writing what the pet policy is. Even if you don’t have a pet, moving into a facility with dander, fur and barking could make for a miserable experience.

Know too, if there is an extra fee or charge for bringing your furry buddy to live with you.

As I write this, there’s a dog barking across the street and it loud enough to sound as if it were in the same room with me. It is not something that can be ‘contained’ even with the best of intentions.

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