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Four-legged friends good for well-being? Jenny Wallis | Sat, Sep 08 2012 12:00 PM

Dear Jenny,
How important are pets to the environment of an assisted living community?

Pets can be an essential part of an assisted living community.  There are times when a resident could be in such depression for any number of reasons, but by just seeing a pet, it can lift their spirits! Maybe it has something to do with the fact that pets are non-threatening. They don’t look at people in a judging way, they simply bring unconditional love. 
Pets can change a person’s mood. There is not a solid reason why pets are important in this category, just that they are. One of the reasons could be something as simple as the dog or cat brings back pleasant memories from the past. Or perhaps a person feels they have always been questioned and doubted, the pet never doubts, never asks questions. The only thing that pets ever do is bring us joy. 
There are some assisted living communities that have community dogs or cats. Residents and family members have reported a sense of calming when the animal would enter their room. The pet may improve morale for people who are undergoing intense medical treatments, reducing depression and anxiety as well.
“I have seen our resident yellow lab Morgan relate to residents who suffer from depression, anxiety, hallucinations, dementia, etc. in such a positive way. Many times achieving results that modern medication can’t accomplish.” said, Ryan Test, Villa Bonita executive director. Some residents might spend most of their day in bed, only volunteering to walk when the dog is present. The therapeutic effects of human-animal relationships can be related to changes in physical health as well. Studies have been done and it is proven that a person’s blood pressure is lowest when petting a dog, slightly higher when talking to a dog. The blood pressure is highest when talking with another human. If ever a senior speaks with difficulty, the mere presence of a dog is helpful because the senior will find that their speech would not shock or disturb the dog and this reassures them and encourages them to relax and confide.
It could be the innocence that a pet has, when sitting on a residents lap or licking their face or just letting a resident scratch their back, the calmness and happiness is almost transferred from the pet to the resident. If a resident is sick or feeling weak or defeated, the unconditional love a pet brings is priceless! That being said, pets and assisted living should go hand in hand!

If you have questions about senior care or helping an elderly loved one, contact Jenny Wallis, community marketing director at Villa Bonita Senior Living at (619) 739-4400 or by e-mail at villabonitamkg2@islllc.com.   Villa Bonita Senior Living is an assisted living community licensed by the California Department of Social Services, located at 3434 Bonita Road, Chula Vista.  You can also visit Villa Bonita online at www.villabonitaseniorliving.com.

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