Thursday, January 30, 2003

Therapy dog brightens life at Alzheimer's center

By Karen Puckett
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ANDERSON TWP. - Arden Courts of Anderson has a little new resident who's making a big difference.

To the many Alzheimer's patients at Arden Courts, Ardie the dog has been a godsend.

"Ardie has been the perfect addition. Many residents become agitated because of their condition, and when we bring Ardie in, they are put into a calmer state of mind," said Brenda Gould, activities director at Arden Courts.

Gould, who had in the past brought her dog Jasmine to visit the residents, realized that having a pet live in would be great therapy.

"The residents looked forward to visits from my dog Jasmine, so when she became pregnant, donating a puppy seemed the natural thing to do," said Gould.

Pet therapy is not a new idea at Arden Courts. The facility is home to two birds and a tank of fish the residents help to care for.

Arden Courts of Anderson Township is an assisted living facility housing patients in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. It is a branch of HCR Manor Care.

The benefit of pet therapy has become a hot topic among geriatric researchers.

Researchers in St. Louis recently completed a scientifically controlled study showing that visits with a therapy dog reduced the loneliness of elderly patients in a long-term care facility.

The study is in the July issue of Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

What matters to the staff and residents at Arden Courts are the smiles Ardie has brought.

On Oct. 16, Ardie was born; and soon, the 37 residents of Arden Courts had their new best friend.

Residents take turns caring for the puppy and taking him for overnight visits. They work together to feed, walk, and train their new companion.

"It really gives them a sense of is fulfilling for them to have someone depending on them," said Gould.

Barbie McDonald, who has a family member at Arden Courts, was amazed at the difference Ardie made in the lives of the residents.

"He has been a wonderful addition. He makes this place feel like a home. ... He replaces loneliness with constant love and affection, that is something a human cannot always do," said McDonald.

Ardie seems happy in his new surroundings, and why not? He has 37 laps to lie on, 74 hands to scratch his head and enough house slippers to keep him busy for a lifetime.

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