Imagine having to make the choice to leave a close companion of 10 years. For some people, making the decision to move into an assisted living facility means just that. They have to leave behind a beloved pet--and worry about who will care for it. But things are changing. And an animal lover could find a profitable opportunity supporting people who need to move to assisted living.
More and more assisted living centers and nursing homes are saying OK to pets. They recognize the physical and mental benefits that can come from the human-animal bond. Some facilities allow five or six "house pets," that are shared among those residents who love animals. It allows a little one-to-one bonding time that the pet visitations from the local rescue groups really don't.
But some assisted living centers, and in some cases nursing homes, allow people to bring their own pet with them or even adopt one during their stay. Nurturing another being and receiving their love in return can bring meaning and value to an older person's life, and may be one of the few relationships they have left.
I like this trend. It seems natural and right. But it does present some problems for living centers--and opportunities for animal workers.
Provide Assisted Pet Care
Who will care for those animals? Optimally, the owner, but often they need varying amounts of assistance: everything from an occasional toenail trim to daily caretaking. So how can you fit into this picture?
• A full-time, on-staff animal caretaker. Large facilities with a large number of animal residents may prefer to hire a full-time person to take care of all pet-related needs. The nursing or maintenance staff are often overworked and don't have time to mess with dog, cat, or bird messes. Or make sure they get exercise and proper healthcare. Sounds like a full-time position to me.
• Part-time contractor. Simply add a new client (the living facility) to your pet sitting business. You would take care of animals on a contractual, as-needed basis. Mrs. Smith's Goldie needs to be walked three times a week, and Mr. Armstrong is not able to give Missy her daily insulin injections. And there's always a need for poop scooping in the courtyard.
• Trainer/behavior specialist. Just like we would have a hard time adjusting to the changes that come with moving into an assisted living center, your pet can experience the same insecurities and resistance to change. Professional trainers or behavior consultants can be a great resource for helping a pet deal with a new living environment and perhaps new animal neighbors. They can also help residents who want to acquire a new pet to choose one that's appropriate for them and their environment.
• Groomer. Perhaps you could set aside one day a week to give discounted (or free) grooming services to residents' pets.
Whether you see large opportunities for a business adventure or an addition to your current pet business or meaningful volunteer opportunities, pay attention to this "pets allowed" trend. It could be a win, win, win: You, residents, and their pets.