A Place for Mom is on a mission to spread the word about the benefits of pet-friendly assisted living. We would also like to award those Houston area assisted living communities who allow pets.
As seniors transition into assisted living from their own homes, they usually try to streamline their lives as much as possible, focusing on their medications, comfort and a few beloved possessions. Many extraneous belongings get downsized, as do the stressors of owning and maintaining a home. It’s all a part of moving on to the next phase of life in a senior assisted living community.
However, it’s worth holding onto a pet (or getting one!) when entering an assisted living facility, studies have shown. Finding a pet-friendly community can make all the difference to the elderly when making such a transition.
“In a situation where someone has gone through many life changes, [a pet] gives him or her the opportunity to give love every day. It gives them purpose,” says Cathy Lightfoot, TK Director of The Buckingham in Houston. “We all need to have a purpose.”
Not only does having a pet to care for increase feelings of love and purpose, it promotes a sense of independence at a time when seniors may feel particularly helpless and vulnerable. At the Buckingham, resident must be able to care for the animals themselves, says Lightfoot. “The more seniors can do for themselves, the better,” she adds.
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A 2006 study done at Saint Louis University found that when seniors spent one-on-one alone time with a dog, their feelings of loneliness decreased, and significantly more so than when that canine time was shared with other nursing home residents. Therefore, having a pet, and taking care of it, could be similarly beneficial to a senior’s mental health.
“Many seniors don’t have children or grandchildren in the area who come to visit them, so a pet can make the perfect companion, countering feelings of isolation and loneliness,” says Meera Nandlal, Public Relations Manager at the Houston SPCA. “It’s also proven that stroking a pet’s fur — even watching fish in an aquarium — lowers heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Pet owners also suffer fewer headaches, and colds.”
Because seniors make great pet owners, especially owners of older animals, who tend to have mellower temperaments and are well-trained, Nandlal says the Houston SPCA offers a program to anyone over 65 adopting a pet. A reduced $15 fee (regular rates start at $65 for cats and $95 for dogs) includes a medical evaluation, spay or neuter, vaccinations, microchippng — and a bag of food.
At the Houston shelter, there’s Sadie, an older dog who’s having a hard time getting adopted. “People come in wanting a puppy or a kitten,” says Nandlal. “But Sadie would be perfect for a senior. She doesn’t want to run or fetch, but she wouldn’t mind going for a quiet walk, or just sitting and watching TV.”
Senior living communities have different pet policies with specific weight limits and breed restrictions; so it’s important to do your research. For example, some communities have ‘pet interviews’ to determine whether the pet is right for their community, while others allow dogs and cats under 20 lbs. Birds and fish are also welcome in many communities, and some communities even have Pet Coordinators to care for the furry and feathered friends. Some communities only allow pets on a case-by-case basis. So make sure to contact your communities of choice and ask about their particular pet policy.
Here are the Senior Living Facilities in Houston, Texas that allow pets:
For more in-depth information about the benefits seniors receive from their furry companion, read our article on “How Pet Therapy Has Changed Assisted Living.”