Jul 18, 2023Emergency Preparedness for Animal Shelters
How Animals Can Be Helpful at Adult Care Facilities
The success of an adult care facility boils down to whether residents thrive. In addition to supporting physical health, mental health is of key concern. Activities that involve animals can be particularly beneficial for residents.
Seniors Need Support
Senior loneliness is a widespread problem. Research published in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work shows that 19% to 29% of all community-dwelling older adults are lonely. Furthermore, the National Institute on Aging warns that loneliness can contribute to both physical and mental health problems, including cognitive decline, heart disease, and depression.
Adult care facilities can help seniors overcome loneliness by acknowledging the challenge, reaching out to the local community, and teaching seniors to be tech savvy. It’s also important to provide activities at your facility to support health and socialization. Although these activities could take many forms – such as cooking classes, board game nights, movie clubs, and exercise lessons – activities that involve animals can be especially therapeutic.
How Animals Can Promote Mental Health
The American Heart Association says pets can help adults over age 50 reduce stress, foster more social connections, and improve their sense of purpose. Pets also provide companionship, help people manage their anxiety, and create bonds among people who connect over animals.
In an American Psychiatric Association survey, 69% of pet owners said their pet reduces their stress and anxiety, provides unconditional love, and offers companionship. Additionally, 66% said their pet provides a calming presence and 63% said their pets are true friends.
Even non-pet owners can reap the mental health benefits of being around animals. According to Husson University, most people experience a release of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin when they are around animals. These hormones can reduce stress and promote relaxation.
How Animals Can Promote Physical Health
Animals can promote physical health in two main ways. As discussed above, animals promote mental health, which subsequently impacts physical health. Animals can also encourage physical activity with significant impact – research published in the journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes shows that dog ownership can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of death.
Again, pet owners aren’t the only ones who can experience the benefits. During pet therapy, an animal handler brings trained animals to interact with individuals. According to Healthline, pet therapy can provide a vast array of benefits, including improved motor skills and joint movement. It can also motivate people to exercise and join activities.
How to Include Animals at Your Adult Care Facility
Adult care facilities can leverage the healing power of pets in many ways:
- Consider implementing pet-friendly policies. Allowing pets at your facility will involve some extra work. For instance, you’ll need to create restrictions for species, breeds, number of pets, and weight. You’ll also need to have rules for vaccines, care, cleanup, damage, and noise. Furthermore, you’ll need to provide residents with space to walk dogs and a way to clean up after their dogs. Nonetheless, given the many benefits of pet ownership, this can be worthwhile for assisted living facilities.
- Bring animal visitors to your facility. Some residents may not have the energy, funds, or inclination to keep a pet, but they can still benefit from being around animals. Inviting animal visitors is also a good option if you decide that your facility will not allow pets. You can arrange for pet therapy or ask local shelters and zoos to bring animals to your facility.
- Organize animal-centric outings. If you have a zoo or aquarium in your area, consider organizing an outing for residents.
Managing Risks When Bringing Animals to Your Facility
If you allow pets or arrange for activities involving animals, you need to be aware of the risks. These include:
- According to the World Animal Foundation, nearly 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. Implement policies to keep aggressive animals and animals with a history of biting away from your residents. You should also consider that some residents may inadvertently provoke animals. Having the pet owners or animal handlers oversee all interactions can reduce the risk of negative events.
- The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says cat and dog allergies impact 10% to 20% of the world’s population. Some of your residents are likely allergic to animals – possibly severely allergic. You’ll need to warn them ahead of time and provide them with allergy-free spaces.
- The CDC says people aged 65 and older are especially vulnerable to zoonotic diseases. These are diseases that pass between animals and people. Individuals with weakened immune systems are also vulnerable. In addition to making sure animals are healthy, residents must wash their hands after interacting with animals and before eating or drinking.
You’ll also need adult care facility insurance. Whether or not they allow animals onsite, all adult care facilities face risks, meaning residential care insurance is critical. Tangram provides insurance for adult residential care facilities through the Personal Care & Assisted Living Insurance Center (PCALIC). Learn more.