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Pets in Nursing Homes: Positives & Negatives

Studies have shown that pets help reduce stress and anxiety. However, should pets be allowed in nursing homes? This is a question that has been asked many times over the years, and there has been significant debate about the pros and cons involved. Here, we want to take a closer look at some of the positive and negative points of allowing pets in nursing homes in California.

The Positives of Pets in Nursing Homes

Even under the best of circumstances, adjusting to life in an assisted living facility or nursing home can be challenging. This is particularly true for those who have lived independent lives for decades. Transitioning to a new home or facility often means separating from friends and family members, and even pets.

There are several health benefits to having pets in nursing homes. When properly supervised and managed, the benefits of having pets in these facilities can outweigh the risks for elderly individuals. Some of the benefits of pets in nursing homes include:

  • Pets encourage movement and activity, including walking dogs. Continued activity can help lower blood pressure, lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease, and stave off various joint issues.
  • Having pets encourages socialization, particularly in group long term care facilities. For example, having a cat in a person’s lap can encourage conversation with other residents. Dogs can help people connect through discussions about past pets.
  • When a nursing home resident has a pet, they have something they can take care of that needs them. Often, people inside nursing homes feel helpless due to the situation that they are in, and they are the ones always being taken care of. It can be refreshing to know that a pet needs you. It can keep you going.
  • Service animals and emotional support animals have been known to speed the healing process from various types of physical and emotional abuse, including elder abuse.

The Negatives of Pets in Nursing Homes 

Even though there are plenty of benefits to having pets inside assisted living facilities, there are also risks involved. Some of these risks include:

  • The risk of sustaining injuries caused by an animal is real. Dog bites send approximately 800,000 people to the ordinance we bring each year across this country, and this can lead to severe injuries for nursing home residents. Additionally, animals can scratch or bump into a resident, leading to other types of injuries.
  • There are various types of diseases that can be transmissible from animals to people. Pets can transmit diseases to humans without a person even realizing it.
  • Pets can also carry dangerous bacteria. Because there are no specific guidelines related to therapy animals, and animals such as reptiles and amphibians are not discriminated against. However, these animals can carry and shed salmonella, which can lead to infections, diarrhea, and dehydration.
  • Pets do cost money, and this could be prohibitive for some residents. Additionally, pets do require upkeep, and it may be the case that a nursing home resident cannot currently or may not in the future be able to take care of a pet in the way that it needs to be taken care of.

There are various factors that need to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to let your loved one have a pet in a nursing home. First and foremost, you need to speak to the facility about its policies. If a facility does not allow permanent pets inside, you may be able to bring pets by for visits just like you can with people.

For more information speak with a San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.