Thursday, July 10, 2014

Grants for pets in aged care through the Animal Welfare League Australia

Gysy the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a frolic on the grass.

Do you have a family member in an aged care facility who needs assistance in keeping their pet? Do you work in an aged care facility willing to help residents maintain the bond with their animals?

The Animal Welfare LeagueAustralia (AWLA) has just announced a new small grants program for projects supporting pets in aged care settings – this is a fantastic, much-needed initiative.

The Pets in Aged CareGrants program will allocate small grants of up to $1000 to assist aged care facilities and residents make suitable arrangements or modifications to enable residents and their pets to live together.

It is increasingly common for aged care facilities to have shared pets, but this grants program is specifically aimed at supporting existing bonds between aged care residents and their individual pets. According to the AWLA,

Separating elderly residents from their animal companions when their pets cannot be accommodated in aged care facilities can lead to significant grief at a time already marked by a profound sense of loss and sadness, and lead to a range of health problems, sleep and appetite disturbances and integration difficulties.
Some elderly people in the community who can no longer care for themselves are unwilling to leave their homes because they are not permitted to take their pets with them to supported accommodation. Outcomes for their animals vary, with some animals re-homed, others surrendered to shelters and some euthanased.
The idea is that the grants will provide practical assistance to help cover costs like vet bills, grooming, dog walking, feeding or making minor modifications to living quarters.

This program is part of AWLA’s Positive Ageing in the Company of Animals Project through which retirement villages and nursing homes across Australia are surveyed to find good models for keeping residents and pets together. If you know any retirement villages or nursing homes that fit the bill, please let them know about the project.

The findings are hopeful, according to AWLA Executive Director Anne Boxhall.

“A strong theme in survey responses from the aged care sector has been that although managing pets in aged care settings can be challenging at times, it is not impossible. Nothing is insurmountable, issues can be managed and it’s worth the effort because the lives and well-being of residents improve markedly.”

That means that making changes – installing a cat door or organising a dog walker or arranging vet visits – can make a HUGE amount of difference to someone.

The AWLA have provided additional information:

The powerful difference that the human-animal bond can make to the lives and well-being of aged care residents can be seen in action on the Far North Coast of NSW, where a team of volunteers from Friends of the Pound (Tweed Heads) visit the Blue Care Kingscliff aged care residences daily to feed, clean and walk resident’s pets.

Pets help older people, especially those who are suffering from dementia, to adjust to their new surrounds,” Friends of the Pound President Sonia Trichter said.

“In the case of the first cat-owning resident supported by this program, the lady cried continually, would not sleep or eat but this all changed when we gave her the cat back as it had been surrendered to us by the family.  Her life in care took on another meaning, other residents would call on her to look at the cat and she even started taking bus trips.” 

Bernadette Lee, Integrated Service Manager at Blue Care Kingscliff Aged Care Facility, would like to see other providers offering similar programs to support residents with pets.

“It’s a really good model, it’s easy and it does work. We’ve had people from as far away as Cairns wanting to come here because we take pets,” said Ms Lee.

“We see the benefits in the quality of life for the pet owner as they settle easily into the new environment and quickly become engaged with other residents and staff as they introduce their pet.

“We also see the benefits spread beyond the pet’s owner to other residents and also staff. It’s a relaxing and happy moment in time when you stop to pat or cuddle a pet.”

Applications for the Pets in Aged Care Grants are now open and can be made by aged care facilities, residents, and family and friends on behalf of residents. Application packages are available online at  Closing date for applications is 5 September 2014. 

PS. There are other excellent initiatives around helping older people keep pets, including this very important lecture on supporting older owners through bereavement following pet loss.