Change and saying goodbye can be some of the most difficult aspects of the aging process. A major change for many people is when they can no longer remain in their old home. Why compound this trauma for your loved one by also forcing them to say goodbye to a beloved pet? Fortunately, there are pet-friendly assisted living options available. Here are just a few things to consider before moving the pet.
Size May Matter
Generally, pet-friendly assisted living communities allow small dogs, cats, and, of course, service animals. If your loved one has a large, active dog, the community may be less welcoming. The reason for this is that your loved one's health may be affected. An active, large dog needs regular walks and play time, which the declining health or fitness level of your family member may no longer allow for. This increases their chance of an injury during walks, or it may force responsibility onto the home's staff for the pet's care. If this is the case, you may need to offer the pet a loving home and then make arrangements to bring it to visit your relative regularly.
Consider the Facility Type
Assisted living facilities come in many different types. These include single rooms in one building, autonomous condominium-style housing, or communities of stand-alone townhouses. Pets, especially larger ones, are less likely to be allowed in the single room, nursing home-style facilities.
Autonomous-style housing usually offers the most freedom, since these are designed to operate as individual households that simply have access to community resources and onsite nursing care as needed. If your loved one is in relatively good health and they want to keep their pet, a condo or townhouse community may be the best option.
Alternatives and Options
If your relative must give up their pet, there are alternatives beyond just bringing the pet for an occasional visit. Some assisted-living facilities have community pets, such as therapy dogs and cats, available to spend time with the residents. There are also volunteer organizations that bring in animals to spend time with assisted-living residents. Finally, a new pet may also be an option.
A relatively quiet and minimally demanding animal, such as a bird or cat, often works well. Your loved one may also be able to keep their pet if it is a registered service or therapy animal. For example, patients with Alzheimer's or dementia sometimes have therapy animals to help them cope with the depression or anxiety these conditions can cause. Just make sure you have a succession plan for the animal's care if something should happen to your loved one.