THE WHIS­PERER

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - PETS - Anne Box­hall Email abox­hall@ big­pond. com

AT AN aged- care fa­cil­ity in Canberra, an el­derly res­i­dent moves around with his chat­ter­ing cock­atiel hap­pily perched on his shoul­der.

Mor­shead Home has a puppy, plus two rab­bits and also al­lows res­i­dents to ap­ply to keep their own pets.

The 79 res­i­dents en­joy the com­pany of an­i­mals along with the so­cial chit- chat that in­evitably arises from their an­tics.

The ev­i­dence is there that com­pan­ion an­i­mals ben­e­fit our phys­i­cal, so­cial and men­tal health and over­all qual­ity of life.

The ben­e­fits ap­ply to peo­ple of all ages and from all walks of life but older peo­ple par­tic­u­larly gain from main­tain­ing reg­u­lar contact with pets.

In 1998, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion en­dorsed the call for gov­ern­ments to recog­nise the ther­a­peu­tic value of the hu­man- an­i­mal bond and to use this knowl­edge to en­act pos­i­tive leg­is­la­tion for pets in hous­ing and res­i­den­tial care.

In the US, Canada, Greece, France and Switzer­land, leg­is­la­tion is in place to en­sure older adults have the right to keep or main­tain contact with an­i­mals, whether they live in­de­pen­dently, in shel­tered ac­com­mo­da­tion or care homes.

Stud­ies of aged- care fa­cil­i­ties that suc­cess­fully per­mit res­i­dents to bring their own pets con­sis­tently show broad de­ci­sion- mak­ing pro­cesses which con­sider the wel­fare of own­ers, other res­i­dents and the an­i­mals.

Well- con­structed pet poli­cies in­clude clear con­di­tions re­lat­ing to the num­ber and types of pets and ex­pec­ta­tions around the be­hav­iour of an­i­mals.

Writ­ten agree­ments set out con­di­tions of own­er­ship in clear, easy to un­der­stand lan­guage.

Man­agers of suc­cess­ful pet- friendly fa­cil­i­ties have stated that pets con­trib­ute to community feel­ing and en­cour­age friend­ships be­tween res­i­dents.

Com­plaints about pets are min­i­mal where clear guide­lines are adopted and where ‘‘ ex­pert’’ community vol­un­teers pro­vide ad­vice and sup­port for pet own­ers.

A com­pre­hen­sive guide to sup­port­ing older peo­ple with pets is avail­able for health and so­cial care pro­fes­sion­als and aged care providers through the So­ci­ety for Com­pan­ion An­i­mal Stud­ies UK email info@scas.org.uk

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