Retirement: Can I take my pet with me to a retirement village?

Retirement: Can I take my pet with me to a retirement village?
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Retirement has many choices, but requires tough decisions. Forever Homes shines a light on the different lifestyle options and the implications of each, including those that are outside the box.

Kay Darby, 77, moved to the village of Selwyn in Point Chevalier in Auckland in July with her black cat Molly.

Darby, who had lived in Gray Lynn most of her life, refused to move without Molly, 16, whom she considers family.

“She doesn’t seem to have bothered the movement. I’m so attached to her that the animal replacement policy doesn’t matter, I don’t think I would, ”she said.

Kay Darby considers Molly part of the family.

PROVIDED

Kay Darby considers Molly part of the family.

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The decision to move to a retirement village is an important decision. If owning animals is a big part of your life, it will play a role in where you go.

Some retirement villages do not expressly allow pets and others, like Selwyn, keep a rule that if you have a pet and it dies after you move in, you won’t be allowed to get another one. .

If you want to take your pet with you to a retirement village, be sure to check their pet policy.

123RF

If you want to take your pet with you to a retirement village, be sure to check their pet policy.

Esther Perriam, director of Eldernet – a free and impartial information service that focuses on issues affecting older New Zealanders – encourages pet owners to filter out unauthorized accommodation in the Retirement Village Directory.

“The reality is that having a pet is important for the health and well-being of many people and this needs to be taken into account,” she said.

“Almost all places will allow you to bring birds and fish. Most will allow a cat and many will allow a small dog. But you have to check what the contract says because there are more and more clauses that say you can bring them in but once they die you are not allowed to get another one.

This day can come as soon as possible if your pet is old.

Pet therapy visits have been shown to have a positive effect on residents, but do not achieve the same sense of connection that people have when the animal is theirs.

SPCA / provided

Pet therapy visits have been proven to have a positive effect on residents, but do not achieve the same sense of connection that people have when the animal is theirs.

“If you’ve always loved animals and still want to have one, then negotiate when you buy in the unit,” Perriam said.

Often times, pets enter a retirement village or nursing home on a trial basis to see how they get along with all the other small cats and dogs in the community.

John Collyns, executive director of the Association of Retirement Villages, said the type of pets allowed was a matter of common sense. A friendly Chihuahua would be nice, but a hyperactive Rottweiler who knocked people over was probably off limits.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, people will have to turn their pets over to a family member, the SPCA, or a Cat Protection League,” Perriam said.

Over the past five years, retirement communities have become more flexible about their pet policies, as they recognize the many benefits that pets offer to the health and well-being of residents.

SPCA / provided

Over the past five years, retirement communities have become more flexible about their pet policies, as they recognize the many benefits that pets offer to the health and well-being of residents.

“This loss of a pet can foster a deep grieving process. It’s not worth underestimating the love and comfort people get from a pet. “

Massey University School of Health Sciences associate professor Dr Mary Breheny, who oversaw a study on pet therapy in elderly care, said allowing people to keep pets companionship in retirement villages might be more beneficial than having visiting animals.

“While residents interviewed for our study enjoyed spending time with visiting animals, some of them mentioned that they didn’t feel the same connection they would if it was their own animal.

“In elderly care facilities, residents often feel like they are receiving services rather than being able to contribute. Taking care of a pet (even if it means helping an animal that already lives in the facility) can be a feeling of contribution, ”she said.

Collyns said villages often do not allow replacement of pets because residents were 80 years old.

“If you get a dog with a lifespan of 15 years, it might just outlive the resident. The village doesn’t want to have a lot of animals that have lost their owners, ”he said.

However, he often sees animals in this scenario being adopted by another resident, if not a family member of the previous owner.

Coco the cat moved to Rita Angus' retirement village during the coronavirus lockdown.  It was adopted informally by the residents.

Margot Boock

Coco the cat moved to Rita Angus’ retirement village during the coronavirus lockdown. It was adopted informally by the residents.

Ryman Healthcare, which has retirement villages across New Zealand, allows residents who live independently to have pets because of their many benefits.

“When someone moves in and wants to bring a pet, the animal meets with the manager to make sure it’s appropriate and then it’s on the contract,” said David King, director of business for the company.

“My mom has Alzheimer’s disease and my daughter and wife trained our dog to be a therapy dog, and he visits mom and the rest of the residents every week.

A stray cat even settled in Wellington’s Rita Angus retirement village during the lockdown by buttering security guards: “No contract for a cat like Coco. She owns the place, ”King said.

Metlifecare, another of New Zealand’s largest retirement village providers, operates with similar flexibility.

Most retirement villages allow small dogs and cats.  However, most also have a policy that if your pet dies, you are not allowed to replace it.

123rf

Most retirement villages allow small dogs and cats. However, most also have a policy that if your pet dies, you are not allowed to replace it.

Clinical director Tanya Bish said the pet policy is discussed on a case-by-case basis. Some of their retirement villages had lots of pets, and some didn’t.

For example, Crestwood Care in Auckland has had everything from kittens and guinea pigs to rabbits and parrots in residence.

“Make sure you know if the village you’re interested in is right for you and your pet,” she says.

You will need to develop a care plan for your animal: who will feed the animal if you cannot? Who will pay the vet bills? Who will take him to the vet? If something happens to you, is there a guardian in place?

“If you can’t take care of it all on your own, you’ll have to demonstrate that you have someone in place who will help you manage the animal’s needs,” Perriam said.

“Quite often there are family members who are happy to engage in this regard, but who don’t push it on people.”

It is important to prepare your pet to move into a new environment with training and environmental enrichment items.

123RF

It is important to prepare your pet to move into a new environment with training and environmental enrichment items.

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR ANIMAL TO MOVE

The SPCA recommends working with a reputable trainer or behaviorist to help you and your pet prepare for the move and help you deal with common but resolved issues such as impulse control and excessive barking.

In addition to training, there are simple changes we can make to an animal’s environment to increase harmony, says Dr. Alison Vaughan, Scientific Director of the SPCA.

“Like us, animals like to have their own retreat space. Make sure you provide a safe space where your pet will not be disturbed by people or other animals. Cats, in particular, feel much more secure when they have vertical space (such as “cat trees” or shelves) and places to hide. This reduces stress and increases the likelihood that the animals get along. “

Provides a lot of enrichment. This can take the form of toys, puzzle feeders, and training. If there are a lot of resources, the animals don’t have to compete.

“Using synthetic pheromone plug-ins (Adatil for dogs, Feliway for cats) can help dogs and cats feel reassured and relaxed in difficult situations, reducing signs of stress and anxiety” Vaughan said.

Life is unpredictable, which is why the SPCA encourages all pet owners to have a plan in place in case they are no longer able to care for them.

“Be sure to discuss your plan with your friends and family and consider adding your wishes to your will,” Vaughan said.

Also keep in mind that while your pets may be like children to you, they are property in the eyes of the law. This means that you can’t leave money or possessions for your pet to help fund their care, but you can put something aside for the person who agreed to take care of them.

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