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Is it advisable to bring a pet? Jenny Wallis | Sat, Jun 04 2011 12:00 PM

Dear Jenny, my mom wants to bring her dog to her new assisted living home. It's a small dog and well behaved, but I'm concerned this may be too much for her to handle. Is it a good idea for her to bring her pet or not?

To most people, their pets are a part of their family. Ask if your mom's new home is pet-friendly, and if so, I recommend you find a way for her to keep her dog. Asking your mom to separate from her pet would only make the transition of her move harder. In fact, if her dog is a good fit with the community, that will likely help with your mom's transition emotionally as well as helping her in connecting with other residents.

Pets are a great icebreaker and means of introduction to other residents. Your mom will likely find herself surrounded by new friends even quicker as a result of her dog. People are often drawn to pets, and this encourages more people to approach your mom. This newfound popularity will help her adjust with new friends much faster in her new home.

Pets often provide an inexpensive way to help counter depression in seniors that often comes from a combination of dependence on others and diminished self-worth due to fewer societal contributions. Just providing care for a pet can help seniors have a sense of importance and being necessary. Most assisted living communities can even help provide care for pets if and when residents are no longer able to manage those tasks themselves, so they won't have to face losing their pet.

Animal companionship also provides solace from social isolation or during bereavement from the loss of loved ones. When appropriate pets are well behaved, they can be therapeutic not just for your mom, but for the other residents as well. The staff at Villa Bonita observed Maverick, a therapy dog from the Humane Society, providing great social stimulation to many of the residents. The response to the individual attention they received from Maverick was overwhelmingly positive. The therapeutic benefits of pets for seniors cannot be overstated.

Most animals have compassion and seem to understand human emotions. This in turn creates a bond of affection almost instantly. As a result, dogs are often brought into senior communities to help socialize with residents. If your mom has a pet than can provide that type of emotional support around the clock, it would certainly benefit her to maintain that relationship, and see how well her pet brightens her new neighbors' lives.

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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