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Choosing an Assisted Living Community for You — and Fido Too!

Your dog goes everywhere you go. So, when it comes time to move to assisted living, it only makes sense that your dog comes along as well. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. While an increasing number of assisted living facilities accept pets, seniors still face challenges when searching for pet-friendly assisted living.

Why Is It So Hard to Find Pet-Friendly Senior Living?

There’s a good reason why some assisted living communities don’t allow pets. Not only can pets spread disease, but senior pet owners are also more likely to fall than seniors without pets. In an assisted living community where many residents have mobility and health problems, preventing these risks is naturally a top priority.
 
Pets are also physically demanding, and seniors who need help caring for themselves likely need help caring for their pets too. Not all senior living communities have the capacity to care for pets as well as people. However, while these are real concerns that you need to keep in mind, it’s not the full picture of senior pet ownership.

The Benefits of Pets for Seniors

Pet ownership also comes with a world of benefits, including “lower blood pressure, stress reduction, lower cholesterol and muted pain sensations,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Senior dog owners are more likely to be active, eat well, and socialize with others, and many report their pet gives them a sense of purpose and structure in retirement. When the battle for healthy aging is as much about mental health as physical health, those benefits are nothing to brush off.

What to Look for in Pet-Friendly Assisted Living

The first challenge for pet owners is finding assisted living that accepts pets. Many communities limit the size, species, and the number of pets they allow. Cats, small dogs, and caged pets usually aren’t a problem, but seniors with medium-sized dogs may need to do a little more searching.
 
That’s the bare minimum, but it’s not all you want in pet-friendly assisted living. Look for amenities like these for a place both you and your pet will love.
 
  • Apartment-style living
  • Pet-friendly common areas
  • Safe, landscaped grounds
  • A fenced and well-lit pet area
  • On-site pet care
  • Affordable pet deposits and fees
 
Of course, an assisted living community has to be a great place for you to live too! Once you have a list of pet-friendly facilities near you, schedule tours to learn more about the lifestyle, amenities, and cost. Chicago assisted living ranges from urban apartments to sprawling campuses, and seeing the options in person is the best way to decide where you’ll be happiest. Fortunately, you can seek assistance with finding the right community by using services such as A Place for Mom, whose advisors work with over 50 different facilities in and around Chicago.

Getting Your Pet Ready for Assisted Living

Once you’ve found the perfect home, it’s time to get ready for your big move! Here’s what to take care of before moving to assisted living:
 
  • Update vaccinations. Residents are often required to provide proof of their pet’s vaccinations. Check which vaccines your pet needs before talking to your vet.
  • Update microchips. Keep the address and phone number associated with your pet’s microchip current to increase the chance of reuniting if your pet ever goes missing.
  • Find a new veterinarian. If you’re moving out of the neighborhood, transfer your pet’s records to a new vet. Mobile vets are a convenient choice for seniors in assisted living.
  • Designate a back-up caretaker. It’s important to have someone to care for your pet if you’re temporarily unable to do so.
  • Think about your pet’s future. Do you know what will happen if your pet outlives you? Naming a caretaker and setting aside funds is a smart way to protect your pet’s future.
 
There’s no question that caring for pets as you age comes with challenges. However, for senior pet owners, leaving their pets behind when they move to assisted living simply isn’t an option. With the right preparations, seniors can minimize the challenges of pet ownership and find a community where the whole family is welcome — four-legged members and all!
 
Image via Unsplash
 
 
James Hall
Senior Care Fitness
jameshall@seniorcarefitness.com
 
Helping seniors live their best lives… because age is nothing but a number.
 

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