Choosing a nursing home that says ’yes’ to pets may be best

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Jun 20, 2012 in Nursing Home Information

Numerous studies have concluded that nursing home residents benefit greatly from interactions with pets. Yet because federal nursing home regulations do not address the use of therapy animals or pets in nursing homes , states are free to set their own policies and requirements. Here in West Virginia, the law provides that nursing homes can freely use therapy animals or allow residents to keep pets, so long as their policies comply with local health ordinances.

While there a number of important factors to research when choosing a nursing home, the benefits of a pet-friendly policy should not be overlooked and are worthy of consideration as a deciding factor in choosing one facility over another, should everything else be equal.

What kinds of benefits are we talking about?

According to University of Iowa law professor Josephine Gittler, studies have shown that interacting with pets can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels among nursing home residents. Pets have also been shown to ease depression, increase exercise and improve cardiovascular fitness among residents as well.

In addition to physical and mental health benefits, Gittler says pet visitation programs lead to increased social interaction and a reduced sense of isolation. Residents have also been shown to feel better and even eat better if allowed to keep a pet or have enough regular contact with a pet to form a strong relationship (the longer and more frequent the visits the better).

Lastly, a pet-friendly policy can be especially important when choosing a nursing home for someone who already has a pet and is already grieving the loss of their home and independence.

Source: WOWT News, "Pets in Nursing Homes," June 12, 2012

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