Transitioning into independent, assisted or memory care facilities can be a very difficult time for a loved one. Leaving a long legacy-and likely a home lived in for 20+ years-is hard. Often times, residents dealing with memory loss or dementia have to leave their pets behind, hopefully in the loving care of their family. As animal lovers, we know how therapeutic stroking a cat or snuggling with a dog is. In fact, just 15 minutes of bonding with an animal increases the feel-good chemical, serotonin*. In a new living setting, residents may feel depressed at the change of scenery or not being able to do as much as they used to be able to do. What better way to cheer them up than with a sweet senior animal? Select care homes are adopting shelter animals to have them live among their residents, bringing joy around the clock.
Especially with dementia patients and Sundowner’s Syndrome (increased state of agitation and confusion in the evening due to Alzheimer’s Disease), animals have been shown to soothe residents through non-verbal emotional support. According to A Place For Mom, the nation’s largest senior housing placement company, animals are in. Forty percent of their callers ask about animal policies.
Senior animals are mellow, relaxing and calming. Many senior cats love to cuddle up in a lap and just nap, while being stroked, a perfect addition to any senior care facility. We see many different reasons why senior animals are dropped off at shelters, all heart-breaking.
Some reasons we’ve heard of for abandoned Senior animals:
- The animal’s owner has recently passed, and the owner’s family does not want to take care of his/her animal
- The animal’s owner has dementia or memory loss and has been moved into a care home, and the family does not want to take care of his/her animal
- The owners of the animal are moving and, for some reason, cannot take the animal with them
- The owners of the senior animal has brought a new animal home, and they do not get along
- Someone in the household has allergies
Adding a senior dog or cat into a care facility will not only boost morale, but also can provide health benefits like lowering blood pressure. Sunrise Senior Living, a leading senior management company, has a community cat and dog at every location. They adopt shelters animals that display a calm demeanor and friendly personalities. Community rescue dog, Howie, living happily at Sunrise of Lincoln Park in Illinois, can be found walking the halls, begging for belly rubs and showing affection to residents and visitors.
Animals offer pet therapy and huge benefits to senior care homes. Not only does it help the residents, but it gives a shelter animal a loving, new life.
-Written by Kara Hamada, founder of Core Paws