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A Furry Nursing Home Resident Buoys Women Living with Dementia

A small pet animal is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.… If he can feed and clean the animal himself, he ought always to be encouraged and assisted to do so.

—Florence Nightingale, 1859

HE MAY BE ROTUND AND RELAXED, but Rocky is a quick study in the human condition. He sizes matters up fast because he wants to make sure his ladies are okay.

The fifteen-year-old golden retriever lives full-time at Rosario Assisted Living, in Anacortes, Washington, where he serves as an anchor and best friend to a group of older women with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. When visitors enter Mount Baker, a memory-care unit at Rosario, Rocky greets them with a polite tail wag, a pleasant smile, and a direct gaze that seems to say, “What is the purpose of your visit?”

The members of Rocky’s entourage fret over him just as much as he watches out for them, and they remember his name more readily than some of their family members’ names.

“Rocky is perfect!” gushes Darlene, eighty-one, a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “He wags his tail. It puts you in a good mood.”

“He’s just such a sweetheart,” says eighty-four-year-old Doreen. “He doesn’t run around very much. He just loves people.”

Marjorie, an elegant eightythree-year-old with jewelry perfectly matched to her red-and-black sweater set, sums up Rocky’s role with ease: “He helps all of us.”

It was rare twenty years ago, but these days, it is not all that unusual for assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and other long-term care communities to have live-in pets like Rocky. And more are allowing residents to bring their own dogs, cats, birds, and other companion pets with them when they move in.

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About Well Being Journal

This is our 25th anniversary year, and with our new January/February 2016 issue we present a seminal piece by Amy Berger, MS, NTP, that presents clear research showing how Alzheimer’s disease starts with consumption of too many sugars; this impairs glucose metabolism and leads to plaque in the brain. Next Katrina Blair extols the virtues of the edible “weed” purslane. Bruce Weinstein, PhD, in “Patience,” shows the remarkable benefits patience reaps. Mike Dow’s feature, “Digital Distraction & Mindfulness,” suggests that constant connection to digital devices has an overall deleterious impact, and he offers delicious mindfulness practices to help improve quality of life. Ann and Ross Rosen discuss the importance of moderate exercise in daily life, and Shannon McRae explains how energy medicine as nature’s assistant is much more powerful when the receiver’s intention is in alignment with that of the healer’s. Finally, Laura Coffey tells the story of a special nursing home companion, a loving golden retriever named Rocky, and his positive impact on the residents. We present all of this in our first issue of the year, and more than we can mention, including a plethora of scintillating research notes.