The Mayo Clinic will let you know right quick that medicine is quite literally going to the dogs—and for good reason! Animal-assisted therapies continue to gain traction as researchers learn that recovery is faster and more fun in the presence of animals. Retirement communities have grown to rely on this non-pharmacological approach for treating an increasing number of health conditions to include anxiety, depression, cancer and heart disease.
The retirement communities of today are full of residents that grew up on a farm. What better way to make a place feel like home than to bring pets into residences? On any given day, you can find several furry (or feathered) friends visiting residents throughout Lutheran Sunset Ministries.
Rainbow Retirement Community, our independent living neighborhood, houses a number of pets living alongside their owners. After all, they’re part of the family. Heckmann Assisted Living houses Shelly, the shepherd mix. Shelly is relatively new and has been a big hit! And it’s safe to say that with very little persuasion, Sunset Home has bought completely in to the idea of pet therapy. Juliette and Fowler, the labradoodles, can be found making their rounds throughout the different neighborhoods on most days. The Sales Family Hope Center, Sunset’s secured neighborhood, has a live-in dog named Bruno. He’s a big ol’ black and brown teddy bear. Additionally, a finch aviary and a large fish aquarium provide visual stimuli in the Hope Center. On most days, we are also joined by two employee-owned Yorkshire Terriers (Diva and Paublo) to ensure additional smiles are created for the day. Each year during the spring or fall, Sunset Home welcomes day-old baby chicks to live with us for a few weeks. Without fail, the topics for those few weeks include, “Do you think they’re big enough to fry yet?,” and, “I think this one and this one are roosters, but I’m pretty sure those 3 over there are hens.” Resident-led stories follow about the kinds of chickens the different families raised over the years. Sitting back and watching, one can literally see blood pressures drop and frowns turn to smiles as residents interact with the animals. There’s something about running your fingers through a dog’s coat when you’re keyed up and stressed out that seems to send a sense of calmness over a person.
I’ll let you in on a little secret— soon, Sunset Home will be adding some unique, feathered friends to the mix for a little while. Our plans are to start rotating some variety throughout the neighborhoods for folks to enjoy.
The field of medicine in evolving rapidly—practitioners and operators are constantly looking for alternative treatment options. While medication is inevitable in some circumstances, the health care community is learning that more holistic approaches, such as pet therapy, carry far fewer negative side effects. We are witnessing firsthand the positive impact animals are having on so many lives at Lutheran Sunset Ministries.
Stop by for a visit—we’ll let Juliette and Fowler show you which rooms have the best snacks.
Article by Sunset Home Administrator Lance Allen, a program of Lutheran Sunset Ministries.by