Animals make nursing home living easier

LANCASTER -- When Tolema Boblitt was looking for an assisted living center for herself and her husband, she had one important condition.

Their cat, Calico, had to be able to come with them.

Luckily for Boblitt, Carriage Court Assisted Living Center in Lancaster was more than happy to welcome the four-legged friend who has been by Boblitt's side for the past 11 years.

"We made sure to check and if they had said no, I couldn't have her, I wouldn't have moved in," Boblitt said.

Calico is one of four cats who calls Carriage Court home. The assisted living center also has three resident cats -- Checkers, Moses and Harper -- who were rescued by Carriage Court employees and nursed back to health with the help of veterinarian L.W. Nicholson, of Fair Avenue Veterinary Clinic in Lancaster.

"It's good to have (the cats) here. ... They like to be loved and petted," said Kathy Morman, business office manager at Carriage Court. "Animals are good for everyone, whether it's here or in your home."

Carriage Court is one of a number of Central Ohio assisted living facilities or nursing homes that happily opens its doors to pets.

A number of residents at Carriage Court, including Boblitt, Bill Murphy and Rosemarie Brister, said they enjoy spending time with the cats who roam freely through the center, occasionally stopping to visit them in their rooms.

"I love Harper. ... I play with him all day long," Brister said. "Sometimes in the morning, he comes and sleeps in my bed."

Lexington Court Care Center in Lexington also is a pet friendly place, allowing visitors to bring in animals.

"I have a lady who brings in her dog every Wednesday," activities director Brenda Workman said. "The residents love it, even the ones who aren't really awake. They know to pet them.

"I honestly can't imagine not letting them come. When you get older, animals are very important to people, and the animals are very receptive to it, too. We love to see animals come in."

Dr. Abel Hittinger, of Appleseed Valley Veterinary Hospitals in Lexington and Bellville, said pets restore a home value for people in nursing care facilities.

"I'm big on the human-pet bond," he said. "The way I see it, pets are members of the family, so when pets come to visit, it's like there's a member of the family visiting more. It helps decrease the feelings of loneliness and stress sometimes associated with nursing care facilities."

Lexington Court, which used to house a popular rabbit, currently houses two parakeets but allows pets of all breeds to come to see residents.

As she stroked a basset hound, Droopy, who belongs to a nurse, Gertrude Burkholder, 89, said she's always been fond of dogs.

"I used to have one named Cookie. My goodness gracious, what do you want?" she asked Droopy, who had begun to nudge her hand. "I like having dogs around. I think it's nice to have Droopy here. I like the birds here, too. I like anything that comes and visits -- especially nice ones like this one."

Virginia Crawford, 87, another Lexington Court resident, said dogs also are her favorite.

"My husband and I had always had dogs," she said. "They're so friendly and good companions. I like to see them come in because I don't have one anymore."

Carrie Hutchman, executive director of Primrose Retirement Community, said pets are welcome in her Marion facility.

"It is a huge transition for people to have to leave their homes they may have lived in for 40 to 50 years," she said. "Not only are they leaving a familiar setting, but they might also be leaving a best friend behind, as well. We think allowing pets to visit makes a difficult or sad situation a little easier."

Hutchman said although the residents are mainly responsible for caring for their pets, it's usually not difficult to find help.

"We find that the staff falls for these pets and will help care for them, too," she said.

Out of the 92 residents, Hutchman said five pets visit on a regular basis: a bird, two dogs and two cats.

"All of the residents get to see them and enjoy them, especially when the residents are out walking their dogs," she said. "Our maintenance man has been great and he even built gates extending from their patios."

Hutchman said she even sees the benefit of pets for those residents who don't own them.

"We have some who haven't had them for years, but when pets come into the common area, you'll see how their faces light up at the sight of a dog," Hutchman said. "We also partner with our local Humane Society and they bring some of their pets out monthly to see our pets."


Sourced From the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, 20th February 2012.