Animals can make a significant difference in the lives of nursing home residents. They can offer companionship and add needed novelty to the day. Therapeutic animals often visit nursing homes, and in some cases, they may even reside there themselves.
The question is, are we currently overlooking the health risks that may come along with these animals?
A recent study of therapeutic animals in Ohio nursing homes found that almost all of the facilities allow animals (an incredible 99 percent), with dogs and cats being the most frequent visitors. Also on the list were birds, fish, and even farm animals. Many of the people surveyed felt that the animals contributed positively and that residents who were able to interact with the animals greatly benefited from the experience.
However, the study also found something else: a lack of policy or concern regarding the health risks associated with the animals. The researchers suggested that best practice guidelines and policies should be developed to create reasonable requirements for the range of animals as well as how staff should handle and observe them.
An article in American Veterinarian noted that nursing home residents, including older adults and immunocompromised individuals, already have an increased risk for animal-associated infections. This alone should be a reason to enact policies that ensure that proper health and hygiene procedures are being followed in the facilities to prevent infection. In addition, the animals themselves may need to pass inspection to ensure that they are free of any diseases or parasites that can move between animals and humans.
When looking for a nursing home that allows animals, check to see if they have a policy in place to protect the health of residents and the cleanliness of the facility when animals visit. Do they have clearly marked signs that explain how to handle the animals? Is hand washing encouraged? Are immunocompromised or allergic residents given a space where the animals are not permitted to enter? Is the area thoroughly cleaned with dander and hair being removed after they have visited?
We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.