Care Comments

Enhancing elderly lives through human and animal relationships

By Julie Rayner, Care, Quality, Governance and Compliance Director at Hallmark Care Homes

Julie has over 20 years’ experience working for the National Care Standards Commission, the Health Care Commission and CQC and as an Inspector, Area Manager and a Compliance Manager.

 

Animals can bring joy to many care home residents and there are several health benefits of pet ownership and interactions. The general benefits include; an improved mood and decrease in stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, less risk of heart attack, and an increase in motivation and exercise. This is not new news. However, it is important that Care Home Managers are able to determine whether the care home can accommodate a pet, whether they can provide on-going care of those pets and what the requirements are for welcoming visiting pets into their home before any decisions are made.

 

Hallmark Care Homes has recently implemented a policy that ensures that all of the important questions about pet ownership and visiting animals are asked before coming to a decision.  We have developed this policy, because we know in some cases, the benefits of pet ownership and interaction with companion animals outweigh the cons. Also, when a resident moves into a care home, we are sympathetic to the resident and understand that giving up a pet and their day to day relationship with it could have a devastating effect on that person’s health and well-being. Moreover, by doing risk assessments and asking all the important questions early on, care providers can be confident that they have made the right decision, in line with the residents’ best interests.

 

Historically, the General Manager is responsible for the day to day management of pets within the care home and for ensuring the safety of residents and team members. In addition to this, the General Manager should also ensure that all relevant risk assessments are in place, that they are up to date and applied in practice. It is the team member’s responsibility however to notify the General Manager of any known allergies that may affect them when they come into contact with pets in the workplace.

Our Pets and Visiting Animals Policy, outlines a framework around the care home process for pets moving in with residents, pets living in care homes, visiting animals as well as infection prevention and control.  Since the policy’s implementation in February 2016, the process for pets and visiting animals has become more streamlined and we have introduced our own resident PAT dogs into our care homes, which has had an amazing effect on the residents’ well-being. Moreover, we have also supported a resident to look after her dog and bring it into the care home.

The most important consideration for General Managers within this policy is that the subject of the residents’ pets is discussed at the pre-admission stage. This must then be documented, explored and discussed with the wider care home team, taking the residents’ care needs and wishes into consideration as well the current and type of animals already resident in the home before a decision is made.

 

Generally, most care homes can only accommodate small household pets for the reason that larger pets and exotic species require substantial support from the care home team. There is also no guarantee that the care home can continue to care for the residents’ pet in the event the animal outlives the owner, so this possible outcome must be discussed prior to the resident moving in. In terms of costs, understandably the resident and/or their family are responsible for paying all food and vet bills relating to the animal.

 

In terms of visiting animals, animals such as PAT dogs and cats and encouraged in care homes as their presence can positively impact on residents enjoyment of life. They are also registered with the Pets as Therapy charity and hold appropriate liability insurance. Team members’ animals have not undergone the same vetting procedure as PAT animals do, therefore it is essential that a robust risk assessment is completed and any mitigating actions applied prior to welcoming the pet into the home.

 

As with all animals, care must be always taken to ensure that residents and team members observe strict hand washing procedures after holding any animal, especially prior to handling or eating food. Pet excrement should also be cleaned appropriately and immediately to reduce the risk of infection and sickness.

 

To support our policy, a guidelines document for the care of a pet in a care home has been developed.  This outlines what information the General Manager should obtain from the resident, family, or representative regarding the pet, what should be discussed in the meeting regarding the care of the pet and what support the care home will provide for the pet.  In order to implement our policy, all team members will continue to be made aware of this via team meetings.

 

As we all care for vulnerable adults, Hallmark Care Homes’ feel we have a responsibility to share best care practice. Every effort must be made to ensure that new residents are not separated from their much loved companions and only by working together can we help to secure a future for the care sector, where the health and well-being of each resident is held above all else.