Moving into a new retirement community comes with many questions, like ‘How much will it cost’, ‘How can I maintain my independence’ and ‘Can I bring my furry friends along with me?’ In this guide, we recommend some questions to ask your potential new community before you move in. That way, you and your furry friend are well-prepared for your next adventure.
First off, are pets really allowed in aged care homes? Well, some nursing homes have a strict no-pet policy. However, in recent years, many aged care facilities have become more flexible regarding their policies. Sadly, our furry friends can’t speak for themselves, so you’ll have to be their advocate! You can start by typing ‘pet-friendly aged care’ into your search engine, find a place that looks promising, and then, ask the following questions:
What rules are in place regarding the type of pets?
While certain breeds of cats and dogs are domesticated and are even able to provide support for those with hearing or sight impairments or anxiety or stress disorders, some nursing homes may not be so welcoming when they find out you have an emotional support reptile, for example. Play it safe by asking straight away (i.e., before you start planning your room decor or signing any paperwork!)
How many pets can I have?
Some nursing homes have a pet limit, so if you have a small farm of animals, you may not be able to bring all your pets along. Or, if you don’t have a pet and you’re considering adopting one in the future, you may want to ask about the potential for that, too.
Are service or therapy pets excluded from certain rules?
If you require a service or an emotional support animal, your pets may not have to adhere to the same rules as other pets. For example, your pet may be able to accompany you to locations that are usually off-limits, such as the dining room. (Nice!)
Can pets go outside?
If you have an active dog, for example, they will need a large grassy area to get their daily exercise. Ask if there is an area for dogs to run and play in, like a dog park nearby. If you have a cat who usually comes and goes from the house as they please, you will need to find out if this is acceptable, too.
Do I need to pay more to bring my pet?
Sometimes, a pet deposit is required before moving in. Ask how much this is and whether it is one lump sum or multiple costs for multiple pets. Also, ask if it’s refundable, and any fine print surrounding that.
What support will I have to help look after my pet/s?
It’s worth keeping in mind that nursing homes that accept pets will typically expect the resident to care for the furry friend. This includes feeding it, taking it for regular toilet breaks, cleaning up, organising grooming, or exercising (or enlisting the help of a close relative to do so). All resident pets are also required to undergo a behavioural assessment and be registered, de-sexed and up-to-date on all relevant vaccinations.
What if I can’t care for my pet?
You may have mobility or health issues that make it difficult for you to care for your pet by yourself. Ask if the community is willing to provide help, or if they will allow a pet sitter or another service to help with the tasks listed above.
Also, ask what support would be available to you if your ability to care for your pet declines while you’re in aged care. It’s important to think about the future before it happens, so you and your furry friend can live long and happy lives together.
Before you ask a relative to look after your pet (or have to look at re-homing), it’s worth doing some research and asking potential aged care homes or facilities about their rules surrounding pets. Remember, if you’re not sure, just ask! Many nursing homes and aged care facilities have seen enormous benefits from having our furry friends around – residents are often happier, healthier and more calm, and more aged care facilities are starting to take note. Because life is better with our furry friends by our side, don’t you think?