If you live with a pet in a nursing home or have a pet that comes to visit once in a while, you know how important they can be.
A pet can help you pass the time and give you something to help get rid of the loneliness and boredom that comes with old age. However, researchers advise administrators of nursing homes and assisted living facilities to consider various health and injury risks before allowing pets into nursing homes.
In a recent survey of Ohio nursing homes, almost all the facilities allowed various pets to visit, but had no protocols or laid out policies to protect the residents from the many health and injury risks. According to Dr. Jason Stull, the author of the study, pets remain an incredibly vital part of elderly people’s lives which they need even when living in nursing homes. Pets help you relieve stress and anxiety and promote physical activities such as walking or playing with the animals.
However, as much as everybody loves pets, there is still a problem when it comes to understanding the various health risks that come with pets.
The research was done in 95 assisted living facilities
across Ohio to find out which nursing homes
allowed pets, the extent of visitation, whether members of staff or the facility
itself owned any pets, and whether there were protocols and policies in place to address the health risks. The study found that all the nursing homes
permitted resident and visiting pets such as cats, dogs, fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, rodents, miniature horses, and farm animals such as pigs and goats.
Nursing home administrators pointed out that the animals had some social, physical, and emotional benefits to the seniors. They looked happier and were calmer when dealing with staff after the visits.
Although nearly all of the nursing homes claimed to have an animal policy, most of the policies failed to address the key issue of health and safety concerns like diseases that may be caused by contact with the pets. Most policies only had vaccination requirements and designated caregivers for the pets. Less than half of the facilities had policies for hand hygiene and procedures injuries such as scratches and bites. Some pets, in particular amphibians, may be carrying bacteria such as salmonella which can cause illnesses especially if you have a weak immune system.
As many agree you cannot be barred from spending time with pets, the solution lies in coming up with better policies for handling and interacting with the animals which are safe for both the pets and the seniors.