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My Loved One Needs Assisted Living But Has a Dog. What Do I Do?

Dogs have always been known to be man’s best friend and loyal companions, an essential part of families. Dog ownership is particularly popular among seniors as they can provide comfort and help avoid loneliness, particularly for those who live alone. But when the time comes to think about assisted living, the issue of what to do with your furry friend is a major decision.

The Need for Assistance

Often times when your loved one is ready to make the transition from independent living to assisted living, the reason is their deterioration of health. They are not able to take care of themselves and therefore need extra assistance to live their daily lives.

The health of a loved one can affect the livelihood of a pup because they cannot perform the necessary tasks that their dog needs to be healthy. For example, getting enough exercise by taking long walks, driving to the pet store to get food, and taking the pup to get regular check ups. As the senior’s health deteriorates, the bond with their pup may also be negatively affected.

Options for Continued Ownership

The thought of separating from your dog can be devastating, but it’s not necessarily the only solution when it comes time to move into an assisted living community. Per federal housing laws, public facilities cannot prohibit animals by residents, provided they can properly care for them.

This law, however, only allows for animals who are properly trained and socialized and pose no threat to other patients. Although private facilities are not required to allow pets on the premises, often times they do.

Separation Options

Sometimes the unfortunate choice must be made to separate from the dog, however that doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one must separate from it completely. A family member has the option to take over ownership of the dog and bring the dog in for visits to the assisted living community.

That way your loved one knows that their pup is still being taken good care of and they are still able to see it whenever they want. Another option is to seek out adoption services, either individually or through “No-Kill” shelters. The family and loved one may select another family to adopt their pup, knowing it is in good hands. They may even agree to stay in touch.

When seniors are separated from their own dogs, they can feel lonely and experience depression, however it’s common for assisted living communities to partner with volunteer organizations that bring in therapy dogs to visit with residents, giving them a chance to interact with the dogs and still get the same companionship and joy of having a furry friend similar to their own. It’s also common for assisted living communities to have one resident-shared dog rather than many to avoid territorial issues and chaos from many dogs.

The benefits of owning a dog are countless. They can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, increase socialization, allow more exercise, and more. When the time comes to make the decision of transitioning into assisted living, the future of your dog can be one of the most difficult you can make. With the help of family and professionals, there are options to weigh in order to continue ownership of your pup or have it bring joy to another family.

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