Skip to main content

Pets in Retirement Community

As an animal lover, I understand why it is wonderful for residents to have a pet in their apartment when they come to a retirement community. As a department manager, I see the problems that come in time when a resident can no longer take care of their beloved pet. And, as the Activities Director in the community, I program for those residents who want to share the love of their pets with others in the community. Check out my blog on the annual dog show that we have each August. But, there are other interesting topics that need to be covered when we think about pets and senior adults.

The first is pet therapy in nursing home. This can be done formally or informally. Since I work with the independent living residents, I see how those with dogs choose to have them interact with fellow residents (or not). Those residents with the pets get a lot of enjoyment from sharing their loved one with others, the animal usually enjoys the interaction, and the resident who choose to stop and greet the pet does so because they know it will bring them joy. It is a win-win-win situation. This is what I call an informal pet therapy session, and I find that those "resident pet therapists," tend to utilize their dogs every chance they get to bring joy to others.

The activities director who works in the assisted living part of our continuing care community has identified the independent living residents who like to share their pets with others and has reached out to them to ask if they would bring their pet to the assisted living section of the community. She works with the resident to schedule a specific time and adds it to her calendar of events. This, along with outside trained "professional" pet therapy dogs are what I consider a formal program.

As mentioned, the community where I work has multi-levels of care, and thus the issues of owning a pet differ based upon the level of care where the resident lives. Independent living issues include a resident not being able to walk the dog, keep litter boxes cleaned, dogs barking, etc. We do have a private-pay home health service that is associated with our company, but many residents do not want to have to pay for these extra services. They believe that friends, family, neighbors and /or staff members should say yes if they are asked to assist with their pet's care. As you know, most family members can not factor this extra responsibility into their schedules, other residents may help for a little while, but not for the long term, and for us as staff members, we are not able to "moon-light" in this area since our company offers the service for a fee (weather we do if for free or not).  

In the assisted living part of the community, the issues are the same, plus in addition, have some specific issues of their own. We have had a resident who wanted to bring her cat with her to this level of care, but her neighbor next door was allergic to cats. And there was a lady who had a dog who did not like anyone to pass by the resident's door, and he room was located at top of the hallway, so that almost everyone entering that section of the community had to pass her doorway. Is it far to the pet to contain them in a much smaller room? Should CNA's be asked to walk the dog or care for the cat? Is it wise to ask a resident to give up their pet when they make this transition? I don't know the answers, but I do wish that residents and their families could make the decision - and be alright with it- to pass the pet to someone who will love it as much as they had in advance of making the move. It is kind of like sending your kid of to college.... you know it is in their best interest, even though it makes you sad. Maybe it should be a required conversation with administration, when a resident moves in with a pet, that specifies the plans for the welfare of the pet in times when the owner/resident is unable to care for the animal. 

While researching the Internet on the topic of pets in senior communities, I found this interesting article. It is worth reading. It is about university veterinarian and nursing students supporting residents in a community. As the activities director for my community, I am going to learn more about this and see if there is any interest in the colleges and universities in my area. Again, this is a win-win situation if the students can get hands-on experience with the pets and the seniors get their animals cared for on a regular basis. As with other volunteer programs, I'm sure that the bonds the students and residents make will be lessons in life for the students. The program in the article addresses some of the issues that I mentioned above also. Here is another opportunity for you to make the residents in your community happier.

Here is another article re: pets in the retirement community from Recharging Retirees

Popular posts from this blog

Brain Games

Recently we hosted our senior Olympics program. This year we added a new event called Brain Games. I found a really good link for brain games that you should look at to understand the definition.
After looking at that link and reading through some other online material, I realized that there is a difference between training your brain and brain games. Be mindful (pun intended) that you are not qualified to train resident's brains unless you have gone to training for it. We, as activities professionals however, are very capable of playing brain games with those who are interested in our communities.
Recently, I introduced Scattergories, Apples to Apples,Wii Jeopardy,Wii Wheel of Fortune and a Name that Tune type of game.  They are fun games that required your brain, so I thought that they were Brain Games. This last game, Name that Tune, I created on my own since I could not find anything that would have been appropriate for this generation to identify with. I downloaded music from t…

Veterans Day Service

In our retirement community, Veterans Day is a very special event. This holiday honors the living veterans who served and are serving our great country. In our independent living community, we have Veterans from WWII, the Koren War and Vietnam War. Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11 at 11:00 a.m.  (I think really it is suppose to be 11:11 am, but that might look funny on your calendar.)
Our program usually involves a few key elements. The first is that we ask the men in the community to make sure that we have the service stats so that we can announce their branch and length of service. This information may be printed on the day's program, used as part of a slide show or shared by the speaker leading the program.  We like to give our veterans a chance to stand out on this day. We ask them to gather together and proceed into the auditorium to sit in a reserved section for them. Sometimes I order a boutonniere or corsage for them to wear into the service, or give them a…

Not-So-Newlywed Game

One of the fun evenings in our community is when I host the Not-so-Newlywed Game. I’ve done this a few times and the residents really enjoy getting to know some of our couples better. It is not a program that I do every year. I like to mix it in to the calendar so that it stays fresh. I also have it based on when there are enough fun and interesting couples to participate. It is very important that those who are participating are quick witted, up-beat people, who the community knows and likes. The residents remember the real Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks, so I make sure to speak to the couples independently and assure them that the questions will not be anything inappropriate. I explain to them that I do realize that unlike a cruise ship, that I know that they have to see the people in the audience for the rest of their lives and that I would not embarrass them.

I find that having four or five couples is perfect in order to make the program move along and stay within the one hour ti…