My father spent some of his final months in a large assisted living facility. He was in his late 80’s, and was at times depressed and grouchy. Since the passing of my mother, he would not socialize easily, and would reject the entreaties of the resident ladies in the facility. He also would not participate in any of the activities that the “social director” would arrange. When I would visit my father, he would be waiting for me in the lobby of the facility, sitting alone, and not talking to anyone. When I would meet with him he would say, “Where the hell have you been?” I noticed that there were many other residents just like him, all sitting alone, and not talking to anyone.
One Saturday I picked up my brother to go with me to visit our father. My brother had a 10 year old Labrador retriever named Gracie. This dog was very friendly, to say the least. She loved everybody, and would make herself at home wherever she was. I asked my brother to bring Gracie with us.
When we arrived at the facility, Gracie pulled us in, immediately went up to an elderly man, not our father, and put her head in his lap! The man was not at all offended, his face lit up, and he started to pet Gracie. My brother apologized and pulled Gracie away. We started to look for my father, and Gracie spotted an elderly lady who was standing up, and leaning against her cane. Gracie walked up to the lady and pushed her snout against the lady’s thigh to say hello. The lady was startled at first, but started to pet Gracie and rub her ears, for which Gracie was grateful.
Finally, we saw my father, sitting alone in a chair, sitting up straight with his cane out in front of him. Gracie went up to my father, and put her head in his lap. My dad’s face lit up, and he began to pet Gracie. This was the first time my father did not say to my brother and I, “Where the hell have you been?” when we went to visit him.
After that meeting, we took Gracie with us to visit our father whenever we could. We noticed also that therapy dogs were brought into the facility on a regular basis for visits, which was always a big hit with the residents. Dogs can be very soothing for older people, and for my father it softened him and brought a smile to his face. Studies have shown that after visits with therapy dogs in care facilities, that the loneliness factor is lessened and that the blood pressure of the residents is lowered. You should consider bringing a dog with you when you visit your older loved ones.
Written Michael J. Young, elder law attorney and probate attorney in Walnut Creek, CA and former in-house counsel for title insurance companies. www.WalnutCreekElderLaw.com LawYoung1@Gmail.com 1931 San Miguel Dr., Suite 220, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. 925-256-0298. Mr. Young serves Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, Concord, Brentwood, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Clayton, etc. Mr. Young advises clients regarding Probates, Probates with Real Estate, Medi-Cal, nursing homes, asset protection, the VA Aid and attendance pension benefit, and long term care planning. Mr. Young is an Elder Law Attorney and Probate Attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, CA. Walnut Creek Elder Law Attorney, Walnut Creek Probate Attorney