Pets as Relationship and Home Builders
Therapy animals and visiting animals have made appearances in nursing homes for years, but something really special happens when animals actually live at the nursing home. In our homes, pets hang out. They come and go from rooms, they snuggle up when they want to be pet, they go off and do their odd little animal things. For many of us, their presence in this way has always been a part of daily life so that similar presence in the nursing home is a great comfort and a step in the direction of "normal."
When a pet lives at the nursing home residents and staff have a chance to build a relationship with it - and around it for that matter; staff and residents share a communal sense of ownership of the pet and always have a shared interest conversation starter.
Of course, some of these pets choose to make their own relationships. A while back, our own Culture Change Now Magazine Vol. 4 (http://www.actionpact.com/mag-ish4.html) featured a story about Mandy, a dog that had a special bond with one resident in particular.
More recently, Ollie the cat from Episcopal Church Home in St. Paul, MN was featured on the front page of the St. Paul Star Tribune daily newspaper. Episcopal Church Home has been operating in the household model for two years. Ollie is Gilbert House household's pet. Besides the usual companionship, Ollie has an uncanny knack for knowing when residents need him most. Read the story here: http://www.twincities.com/ci_16169206?nclick_check=1
Of course residents should be consulted about if they would like to have a pet in their home and arrangements need to be made with staff for its care. This link to the NHRegs site is helpful for checking Federal and State regulations regarding pets.