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Pets Instrumental To Holistic Health, Healing, Independence for Seniors, Advocates Say (Part Four)

“[The] space [is important]. [The best is to have a] closet with shelving. I’ve never seen a thin community dog [so] you need a doggy [waste material] digester. They are rolling grooming tables in [the] beauty shops [of some senior long-term care community campuses to clean and maintain the dogs].”

All of this is because a pet’s character is crucial in a community’s final decision, Oliva said.

“[The ideal pet] must be able to live with and relate to other animals,” she said. “[The rescue organizations and community representatives] must confer with visitors and new people [in the senior care facility.] Usually, [we] have dogs with short-to-medium hazards. Disabilities are welcome. We don’t shy from dogs with issues.”

Typically, Oliva said, costs for pet care, medicine and food run from $25 to $125 a year in costs. As part of the pet placement process, prospective residential tours are conducted and potential dogs are given initial contact with a senior care community. Residents, she said, are engaged in the initiation process. If the pet is ideal for the senior care setting, he or she is selected and can live on campus.

Upon moving in, Oliva said, an area of the facility is selected for a large or extra-large crate for the dog. The best outdoors areas are identified for a dog’s walking habits and physical exercise regimen.

The senior care center must acquire all the necessary equipment and accessories for the new dog and be open to what Oliva described as a “slow move-in.”

Fliers are posted all over the campus of the senior care facility to introduce the new dog to the residents. Overtime, the dog will cultivate favorite residents. One or two residents will develop a special bond with the new dog.

“They will walk the dog and often will take the dog [back to one of their] apartments for sleeping,” Oliva said.
As Pathway developed its senior pet program over the years, it gleaned insights into how to best manage and lead the initiative effectively, she said.

“The lessons learned are ‘plan on [assigning] staff to handle all of the pet care,’” Oliva said. “Budget accordingly for [the] needs of older dogs. Younger dogs are not [a] fit for [senior long-term care because of tripping hazards and lack of ease of petting]. [Beware of] residents overfeeding [them]. Allow residents [to] make major decisions.”

Read This Story From The Beginning:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Last Updated: February 2014

Vladimire Herard, M.S. (99 Posts)

A print journalist for 21 years, Vladimire Herard freelanced for the National Senior Living Providers Network, (, the Guidance Channel and Under CD Publications, Ms. Herard wrote about senior health, substance abuse prevention, and elderly housing. Under Inside Washington Publishers, she covered health care financing for Inside HCFA and food and product safety issues for FDAWeek. Ms. Herard also covered education, crime, and county affairs for daily newspapers such as the Chicago Defender. She currently covers senior long-term care, the pharmaceutical industry and issues and education. Ms. Herard resides in Chicago.

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