“Dogs need a purpose in life, it helps keep them healthy,” Schickman said. “And the resident, he brings them joy and happiness.”
Some places are even allowing permanent house pets, and dogs aren’t the only ones.
At the Clare Bridge Alzheimer’s care unit at the Homewood Residence in Delray Beach, residents adopted Scout, a large black stray cat missing a foot, from an animal rescue group.
Scout now has a box of toys, two beds and a regular spot on the Clare Bridge activities calendar. Residents gather to pet him, discuss his care or play with him — things designed to stimulate their memories and get them out of their chairs.
The eight women at Scout’s session one recent morning smiled and nodded when asked if they once had a dog or cat. One called out the name of her pet, gone for many years, as Scout played with a feather on a string.
Ken Martin, of Aventura, saw his mother smile when he asked her if Scout made her think of Sam, their longtime family cat. “Every morning, Sam would jump on my mother’s stomach and she loved him to death,” Martin told the Sun Sentinel. “I think Scout makes her more responsive and brings her happiness and joy.”
Some elders adopt a pet after moving to an assisted living facility because they couldn’t have one in their retirement condo. Others bring their pets with them.
“It’s traumatic enough to have to come from your independent apartment to one room here,” said Melodie Fritzinger, administrator of John Knox Village’s Gardens West assisted living center. Being pet-friendly “is good for our residents and makes things more homelike,” she said.
This story included material originally published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel