You are here:

Charity calls to end heartbreak for older pet owners entering care

Blue Cross is calling on all elderly care homes to have a clear pet policy, after the pet charity’s research found that 40% of UK care homes claim to be ‘pet friendly’1 but there are often huge discrepancies in what this means in practice.

Blue Cross findings reveal that not all ‘pet friendly’ care homes allow a resident to have a pet but instead may mean pets are allowed to visit, the care home has a resident pet, staff bring their pets to work or that a home contains a fish tank. With a quarter of older pet owners describing the their pet as ‘family’2, Blue Cross is calling for a more transparent, consistent and clear approach to help pet owners make this life-changing decision.

The leading pet charity, which runs the Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS), believes that the grief of having to give up a pet when they go into care is deeply traumatic for the elderly owners and should be minimised as much as possible. Two thirds of UK older pet owners3 describe being ‘devastated’ if they had to give up their pet to go into care.

Diane James from the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service said: “Calls from older people forced to give up their pet because they are going into a care home are heartbreaking. Not only are pets an important companion in older people’s lives, they may also be the last link to a deceased spouse or happy memory. At an already difficult time for many older people, losing their pet can be seriously traumatic for them.”

While the charity understands it isn’t appropriate in all cases for pets to live with their owners in care or retirement housing it is recommending that care homes have a clear criteria on where they stand regarding residents keeping their pets and the responsibility of residents living with their pet in the home. Blue Cross has produced a checklist for care homes to create a simple, easy to understand pet policy. 

Feedback to the charity from care homes indicates these guidelines would be welcomed and, along with 65% of older pet owners4, they would support a change in legislation so that care homes must have a formal pet policy and process for residents wanting to bring their pets to live with them.

Blue Cross is urging supporters to write to their MP to change current legislation so that all care homes must, by law, have a pet policy in place, letter templates can be downloaded from the www.bluecross.org.uk. The charity is also offering free online guidelines for care homes to create a pet policy.

Marion Davies, age 82, lives with her cat four-year-old Blackie at Thameside care home in Surrey. Marion said: “I love Blackie to bits. She sleeps on my bed at night and comes into the day room with me sometimes. She is a member of my family.”

Blue Cross believes there are many benefits to older people having pets in their lives. As well as companionship, pets give older people a routine and a sense of purpose. Older pet owners are also more likely to take exercise to walk or play with their pets and pets also relieve stress and increase endorphins through stroking.

Andy Seal, Service Delivery Consultant at Anchor, said: “Anchor prides itself on giving older people a choice of great places and ways to live. One way we do that is by allowing residents to bring their pets with them when they move into our properties. Studies have shown that residents are healthier and happier when they interact with pets. As well as reducing stress, having pets is also a good way for carers to initiate conversations with residents, particularly those living with dementia who find it difficult to communicate.”

Blue Cross happily rehomes pets to older people. The charity matches homeless and unwanted pets to the best homes for them and has no restrictions on age. To reassure older pet owners they can register pets onto the charity’s ‘Pets into Care’ scheme which is a free service where pets who outlive their owners can be taken in by Blue Cross who will match them to a loving new home.

For more information on pets needing homes, the ‘Pets into Care’ scheme, or to make a donation visit the Blue Cross website.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • Blue Cross spokespeople available, contact the media office.
  • Blue Cross suggested criteria for a pet policy is available, contact the media office
  • 1 Data according to carehome.co.uk – the leading UK Care Home website (18,231 total and 7922 with a ‘pet friendly’ criteria in the advanced search)
  • 2 Survey by Onepoll of 350 pet owners aged 65+, 23 said their pet is their family when asked what the most important thing is about having their pet with them.
  • 3 Survey by Onepoll of 350 pet owners aged 65+, 197 chose ‘devastated’ as their primary feeling if they had to give up their pet to move to a care home. Alternative responses included: It would be the least of their worries (19), they would understand (19), sad but would find a new home for it (24).
  • 4 Survey by Onepoll of 350 pet owners aged 65+, 229 said yes, they would support a change in legislation.
  • Sick, injured and homeless pets have relied on Blue Cross since 1897. Abandoned or unwanted, ill or injured, pets turn to us for help every year. Our doors are always open to them, and with your support, they always will be.
  • Each year, thousands of cats, dogs, small pets and horses turn to our animal hospitals, clinics and rehoming services for treatment and to find them the happy homes they deserve.
  • For more information, please visit www.bluecross.org.uk.
  • Anchor is England's largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for the over-55s, providing services to almost 40,000 older people in 1,000 locations. Anchor provides a range of services from rented and leasehold retirement properties to residential care homes, specialist dementia care homes and retirement villages.          

Media contacts

Louise Lee, 020 7932 4066 or [email protected]

Media office, 0300 777 1950 or [email protected]