Demand for the Australian Government to support older pet owners in home
In response to recommendations by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in 2021, the Australian Government is making positive changes to the aged care system to restore the dignity of older people in Australia.
From the Government Aged Care Engagement Hub:
“Reforming in-home aged care to prioritise independence.
We want to make sure the care older people receive at home contributes to their quality of life and supports their family and community connections.
The Australian Government is committed to delivering in-home aged care reforms that will serve the needs of all older people, their families and carers, now and into the future.
The reforms will address key concerns raised by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to ensure in-home aged care:
- is simple to access and understand, with one assessment process
- gives people timely access to the safe and high-quality services they need
- gives people real choice and control in determining the services they receive
- has fair and transparent fees that direct funds to delivering high quality care.”
Older adults often face loneliness and isolation and rely on their companion animals to thrive.
There is a painful absence of government support for older pet owners in in-home care, resulting in not only putting people's lives in danger but also their much-loved animals being surrendered to shelters across the country.
A host of studies demonstrate how pets offer a myriad of physical and mental health benefits for people, such as reducing stress, providing companionship, encouraging social interactions and more. This is true particularly for older adults who often face loneliness and isolation and rely on their companion animals to thrive whether they are living at home or in aged care.
In 2023, national animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia completed a Survey on the Status of Pets in Aged Care facilities and at home, and found worrying results.
The results tell us 86% of older adults with pets experience improved mental and physical health.
When it comes to older adults living at home, the survey reveals 61% of older adults live alone, and 74% of older adults with pets say their animals provide companionship and reduce loneliness.
Whilst 40% of older adults who receive a Home Care Package (HCP) have pets, only 9% of these pet owners receive pet care support, such as walking their dog (64% need help) and taking their pet to the vet (62% need help).
CANA's Pets in Aged Care Survey shows an urgent need to support pet ownership for older Australians who choose to live independently.
Ms Ennis says, “The health and well-being benefits of pet ownership are measurable and indisputable. The CHSP (Commonwealth Home Support Programme) and HCP can be extended to determine and secure the necessary assistance for a person to live independently with their pet by ensuring services are offered to support pet health and well-being.
“Increasing the number of pet-friendly in-home aged care support will also help to prevent animals from being euthanised or surrendered to shelters and maximise the physical and emotional health of animal loving older people.”
The financial implementation of adding these resources to the packages is minor and would be in many cases, mean simply changing the wording of the delivery of existing items.
Companion Animal Network Australia is calling on Hon Mark Butler MP Minister for Health and Aged Care andHon Anika Wells MP Minister for Aged Care to help our ageing population maintain a high quality of life and that includes finding ways to help older adults retain their pets.
For more information about supporting pets in aged care, please visit https://petfriendlyagedcare.com.au