Many seniors often give up their pet for adoption when they need to move to a Senior Living facility. It’s not easy because of the inability to take care of themselves, their pets, coupled with not having the right place to live. Yet, not having a pet goes hand-in-hand with lower cognitive, physical, and psychological functions. So, a guide to pet-friendly Assisted Living facility helps with a better quality of life.
Even though it’s better to keep a furry companion by your side, it’s hard to just pack up and move into the nearest senior apartment. Learn about pet policies, what these communities cost, considerations before moving, and the most pet-friendly state for seniors.
Are Dogs Allowed in Care Homes?
Many Assisted Living communities are not animal-friendly, and those that are, have restrictions. Some pet-friendly communities allow one small dog or cat. You’ll also find places that offer pet-related services. That’s because they know it’s physically, emotionally, and mentally valuable for seniors.
Guide to Pet-Friendly Assisted Living: Here are some of the restrictions
- Only non-exotic and domestic animals are allowed.
- Often, breed restrictions of specific dogs, like pit bulls, are imposed. The community also only allows animals with a temperament easy enough for caregivers to enter the elderly’s apartment.
- Most facilities prefer animals weighing less than 15 – 20 pounds.
- The animal needs to be older than a year, trained, and housebroken.
- Senior residents would need to declare a pet owner if they can’t look after the pet themselves.
- Care homes would need proof that vaccinations are up to date.
- Paying an extra deposit to cover any damages that the pets could cause.
- A limit to the number of pets allowed to live at the pet-friendly senior apartment.
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What Are the Benefits of Having a Dog at a Senior Apartment?
Besides the euphoria that pets bring to seniors, they’re beneficial to the quality of life. They assist seniors with dementia, heart disease and provide a feeling of usefulness.
There are 4 ways that pets improve the quality of life for seniors.
- Walking dogs keep seniors active. Studies show that an elder who owns a pet walks an extra 22 minutes every day. This helps with weight management and agile bodies.
- Animals help prevent Heart Disease. The same research shows a lower risk of heart attacks because of lower blood pressure and the animal acting as emotional support.
- Reduces depression. Having a pet results in your elder feeling like there’s something to live for. Pets provide round-the-clock companionship, which reduces loneliness and depression.
- Increased mental stimulation. Because taking care of a pet’s everyday needs creates mental stimulation, risks of dementia are reduced.
- Seniors experience higher social interaction. Even in a community, seniors can find it hard to socialize with others. A pet makes it easier to bond with other pet owners.
Guide to Pet-Friendly Assisted Living: Questions to Ask
Before you decide to bring your furry friend along, weigh up all the pros and cons. Plan to make the transition easier by asking the following questions:Is the pet trained and well-behaved? A well-trained pet reduces the chances of being a nuisance to other residents.
Is the pet accustomed to freely moving around?
Active dogs often don’t do well when moving from a large yard to a confined Assisted Living apartment. This also applies to cats who are used to roaming around whenever they want.
Is the animal the right size for the pet-friendly senior apartment?
Most communities don’t allow large breeds. This makes it hard to find a place that suits your furry companion’s needs. Finding the right location, amenities, and the price you’d like is affected too.
The elderly move to Senior Living facilities like Assisted Living because their health is declining. Can they still take care of the animal now and in the near future?
Would the senior still afford to take care of the pet?
Care homes are costly as it is, and the extra strain of vet bills, food, grooming, and medication can drain the budget. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates the annual cost of owning a small dog is $730. Cats cost about $800 with health insurance.
Who will take care of the pet if the elderly’s health declines?
While owning a pet is beneficial to a senior’s health, daily care of the pet becomes a burden with declining health or mobility issues. Although cats don’t need as much care as dogs, many pets need regular exercise or to be let out to go potty.
How much does it cost to have the pet live in? Is it a monthly fee or one-off?
How old is the animal? A younger dog has more energy than an older dog and may not do well in an apartment. Would there be a conflict between residents? Not all seniors enjoy animals, and your dog could be seen as a nuisance to some. This is especially true if your dog barks a lot, which could end up as a complaint to management. If your pet is prone to damaging others’ property or hurting others, there could be grave consequences for the elderly.
Does the Pet-Friendly Community Offer Pet-Related Services?
While many Assisted Living facilities allow residents to keep their pets, some go the extra mile to provide access to pet-related services or access to external vendors. Some even offer pet therapy and access to external vendors to help the aged with their pets.
A community that does assist often schedules a time to meet the pet, learn about their needs and the owners’. They develop a care plan, which includes a seasonal plan to assist seniors in lousy weather.
Pet-coordinators help seniors through:
- Exercising your animal
- Cleaning up after them
- Assisting with pet group activities
- Ensuring that their vaccinations are up to date
Keep in mind that these services also add to the cost of living in a suitable retirement village.
Guide to Pet-Friendly Assisted Living: the Cost Structure
Living in an animal-friendly Assisted Living facility has many perks that improve the quality of life for seniors. But, to what detriment by adding stress over finances?
The cost to live in an Assisted Living facility depends on a few things:
- The size of pet-friendly senior apartments
- All the services you need
- The state you’d like to live
The Genworth Cost of Care Survey: National 2020 shows that care communities cost about $4300 per month. This roughly comes to $139 a day and $51600 a year. A semi-private room costs about $7756 per month. While a private room costs about $8821 per month.
The 2020 survey also shows a 6.15% price increase since 2019 and a 3.62% in price growth over the last 5 years.
Why has the price increased over a year? It seems that since Covid-19, labor shortages, PPE costs, and Regulatory changes (among others) contribute to the rise in price.
Another factor to consider when choosing through the Assisted Living facility is the area that the senior apartment is situated. Areas (where the general cost of living is high) affect the price you’ll pay. Then, you’d also have to add the costs of having a pet live in, which varies from place to place.
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How Can I Pay for Assisted Living Community with No Money?
Seniors pay anywhere between $2000 to $8900 per month for Assisted Living apartments. Medicaid is one of the ways to pay for Assisted Living, but not for long-term stays. There are a few more ways like insurance, veterans benefits, and leveraging your assets to help you pay for Assisted Living.
Long-term Care Insurance (LTCI)
LTCI is a policy purchased through a private insurance company to cover elder care and Assisted Living. The premiums depend on the senior’s health status, age, and the coverage amount needed. Keep in mind that if your beloved already has pre-existing conditions, coverage could be denied.
Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits
Some veterans (and their spouses) are eligible for wartime benefits. VA benefits are for pensioners with low income or limited assets and can’t afford to pay for help with ADLs. To qualify, you need to show the following:
- Served at least 90 days during a period of conflict
- Must have a medical and financial need
- Provide military discharge papers and medical documents
To access this benefit, seniors can apply for long-term health care.
Your beloved may already have life insurance that could cover the cost of Assisted Living. You can also cash in some (or all) of the money. Keep in mind that if you do cash out the entire amount, be ready to pay income tax on the full amount.
Convert the policy into a long-term care policy. Be aware that this reduces the value of the initial policy.
While many insurance companies don’t allow you to access the money before the insured passes on, you can sell the policy to a 3rd party company. By doing this, you’d probably only get between 50 – 75% of the original value.
Leverage your home
Consider a reverse mortgage, which allows you to draw cash in large lump sums to foot the bill. The downside is that there are extra fees for the service.
Or, you could also rent out your home. Be sure to have a trustworthy rental agent to manage the property on your behalf.
What Is the Most Pet-Friendly State for Seniors?
Oregon is at the top of the list for many because they have some of the strictest animal abuse laws. They have the most dog parks per person and tons of pet-friendly restaurants. The state has a large number of vets and no-kill shelters.
Some of the prominent pet-related agencies in Oregon are:
- The Cat Adoption Team partners with Animal Shelter Alliance Portland (ASAP) to deliver free cat food to the elderly. They offer $15 sterilization procedures to elderly who need public help in some counties. Call (503) 925-8903.
- Dove Lewis Velvet Assistance Fund helps with up to $750 in financial aid towards your furry loved one’s medical care. Call (503) 228-7281 for help.
- The Humane Society of Central Oregon offers sterilization to low-income pet owners. They also assist with pet food if needed. Call (541) 382-3537 for help.
- The Willamette Humane Society helps with pet sterilization. You’d need proof of government support. Contact them on (503) 480-7729.
- Oregon Outback Humane helps with discounted sterilization for low-income pet owners. Get hold of them on (877) 947-5009.
- Lane County Animal Services provides low-cost vaccinations, sterilization, and flea control products. Contact them on (541) 682-3643.
- The Umpqua Valley Humane Society helps with sterilization, medical care, and vet bills in Douglas County. Call (541) 672-5303.
While Oregon is known for loving its pets, all other states have organizations that can assist the elderly. Keep in mind that some organizations help certain areas only.
We’ve talked about seniors who already own a pet. But what if your loved one is already living in a pet-friendly Assisted Living facility and would like to adopt a furry companion?
Before adopting a pet into a senior community, consider these first.
Can you afford to adopt?
Small dogs cost up to $737 per year, and cats about $809. Add to that the initial costs of up to $470 for a cat and $1207 for a dog. You also need to consider that grooming for long-haired breeds is extra. For long-haired cats, add $1174 every year. Also, consider if special dietary requirements are within the budget.
Is the new pet accustomed to similar conditions of the pet-friendly community?
Regardless of the animal’s size, would the pet adapt to a small apartment if used to open spaces? Is your older cat used to roaming, and will it become an issue with other residents? Is the new addition comfortable living close to other animals in the facility?
How old is your adopted animal?
If your animal is less than a year, they have more energy and need plenty of space and exercise. Can the elderly keep up with this demand?
Guide to Pet-Friendly Assisted Living: Using Pet Therapy for Seniors
While some Assisted Living facilities allow you to care for your own pet, there may be many that only provide access to animals through pet therapy. Being around therapy animals lowers stress in residents by stimulating dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Interacting with therapy dogs reduces agitation and increases physical exercise.
Many times, residents can take the dogs for walks, which provides exercise for both while delaying the aging process. The animals help seniors who don’t want to socialize with other residents and prefer to interact with animals.
Pet therapy is introduced by:
- Having a live-in pet to share among the residents
- Hiring pet therapists from companies
- Allowing relatives to bring pets for visits
There are some challenges to overcome, as in the case of a live-in pet to share. Not all residents would be keen on taking care of the animal(s). Sometimes, issues of who’s responsible for cleaning up after the pet comes up. Another thing to consider is taking precautions about over-feeding the animals.
Top 3 Points
1. There are many important questions to ask before considering pet-friendly Assisted Living like “Is the pet trained and well-behaved?”, “Is the pet’s size alright for the senior apartment?”, “What will happen to the pet after the senior’s health declines?”
2. Aside from just allowing the pets, will the community also offer pet-related services?
3. Will your Assisted Living facility offer pet therapy?
Having your pet move to a pet-friendly senior apartment is more than just killing loneliness. It’s beneficial for cognitive, physical, and psychological functions too. Many pet-friendly Assisted Living apartments are pricey. But, there are ways to pay if there’s no money. That’s why you need a complete Guide to Pet-Friendly Assisted Living.
On top of that, some care homes go the extra mile by getting external vendors to help with grooming, exercise, and vet visits. While many facilities do not allow live-in pets, some recognize the benefits of introducing pet therapy.