Esther Rantzen has highlighted what she believes is a serious problem and one which is underestimated by the people who manage and run care homes for the elderly.
A survey found that 71% of care homes ban animals. In addition, 5% of elderly people said that they would consider ending their life if they could not stay with their pet.
Those two statistics clash. They clearly indicate that very many elderly people who have to go into care homes are deeply upset about not being able to bring their pet with them or worse, having to put them down.
“To ask people to have their pet put down when they move into residential care is unkind and unnecessary. People raise concerns about hygiene and safety but those are so unimportant compared to the terrible sense of bereavement elderly people feel when their pets have to be put down.” (Esther Rantzen)
To many elderly people their cat or dog is a major part of their life. As Esther says, it may be the reason why they get up in the morning and a reason to go out for a walk (with their dog). They are a lifeline to many people. A lifeline which can be torn away from them when they enter a residential care home.
Entering a care home of its own can be a very depressing experience for an elderly person because they are taken away from their home, their usual surroundings, the place they know and where they have probably lived for a long time. To compound that very difficult transition with the loss of their beloved cat or dog can be too much to bear.
I remember when I was younger, much younger and briefly employed as a cleaner in a residential care home (I was actually a good cleaner – very quick and precise!).
A bright, elderly lady became a new resident at the home. She was placed into a nice room and of course I met her when I cleaned her room. We got chatting. She was upset but her demeanor did not tell me how upset she was because within 10 days she was dead and I don’t believe it was due to an illness.
I am behind Esther Rantzen on this one. I am also behind the idea of women’s sanctuaries (from domestic violence) allowing women to bring their cats and dogs with them which is a very similar problem. Often women remain in a difficult relationships because they are unwilling to leave their cat or dog behind which they must do because most women’s refuges do not allow pets.
I hope that Esther Rantzen’s call for old people’s homes to admit pets is heard.