The Role of Pet Therapy in our Senior Living Communities

Posted by Senior Solutions Management Group on Sep 30, 2015 4:35:56 PM | 2 minute read

Note: Some information in this blog may be outdated. However, we would love to talk to you about the different pet therapy activities residents enjoy in our communities. Contact us today! 

Recently, we have published many articles about the quality activities our residents have access to in our communities. Most of these activities have been specifically geared toward our assisted living residents, who have a level of care that sits at different points (depending on the person) on the scale between nursing home care and independent living.

zblogPPG1One approach many of our communities take to providing emotional support to our residents is through pet or animal therapy. Interacting with pets or other tame animals in a supervised environment is widely believed to improve the mood and overall well being of seniors, especially those suffering from dementia or other memory-loss diseases.

A unique example of this practice is found in our Palms of Punta Gorda community in Punta Gorda, Florida. Activity Director Mary Beth Fox has always been a supporter of animal therapy programs. In the past, she has brought a miniature horse to the community to interact with residents. “The residents are enthusiastic about having animal visitors like dogs, horses, and birds,” Mary Beth says. Many of the residents feel pride in taking care of the animals by doing small tasks like making sure they are fed and have water to drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARealizing the benefits for her residents, Mary Beth took on the task of developing a Bird Therapy program for the Palms of Punta Gorda. She contacted Parrot Outreach Society, a non-profit organization “whose sole concern is the welfare of parrots in captivity and the wild.”

Through this organization, Mary Beth would adopt Elvie, a 12 year old cockatiel. “Elvie has become a conversation piece,” Mary Beth says, “a real mascot at times.  Other times, she’s just good company, a friend to sit next to in our Living Room.”

Elvie will interact with residents on a one-on-one basis (if the resident is comfortable, he or she might even be able to hold her) or as a group, like during exercise sessions. “The communication between animal and human is very special,” Mary Beth says, “The sweet and sassy cockatiel has made a bigger impact than I had originally thought.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEspecially with residents in memory care, Elvie is able to “turn someone’s frown upside down.” Some of the residents even look forward to being able to help with some of the daily tasks required to keep Elvie healthy, and other residents enjoy interacting with her because it brings back memories of a pet from the past.

Elvie lives with Mary Beth at her home and travels to and from work with her every day. When Mary Beth goes on vacation, Elvie stays at home and is definitely missed by the residents. One time, when she returned with Elvie after a vacation, a resident said, “Our baby is back, oh good!”

Mary does not regret her decision to adopt Elvie. In fact, she hopes that others can experience the same kind of joy Elvie has brought to the Palms of Punta Gorda. “I would definitely recommend other [communities] to adopt a bird and start an animal therapy program,” she says, “By adopting a bird you will help bring joy, responsibility, entertainment, and love into a home.  Elvie will continue to enrich the lives of others.”

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