ENHANCING THE HUMAN-ANIMAL CONNECTION IN SENIORS
Dee Petersen, PA-S
Samuel Merritt University, Umbrella of Hope
Senior citizens are often lonely and crave companionship. Studies have shown that the presence of a companion animal pet improves quality of life, emotional health and gives seniors something that enhances their lives.
Senior animals in shelters have a hard time getting adopted. They have longer stays in the shelter systems and are often the first to be euthanized.
Pairing the two helps the seniors find a companion and helps the animal find a loving home.
This project will serve people aged 55+ by referral from a medical provider for a companion animal. They will be matched with an animal aged 5+ who was at risk of euthanasia at a local animal shelter. There will be no adoption fee for animals placed this way.
Since seniors are often on fixed incomes, the animals will have all needed medical needs provided prior to adoption and will be sent with a year of any needed medications and (and food if needed).
If the placement does not work out for any reason or if the senior becomes unable to care for the animal, we will accept the pet back into our adoption program to be replaced into another home.
The placement goal is 25 animals during the fellowship year and for this to be an ongoing programming offer at Umbrella of Hope in the future.
I personally founded Umbrella of Hope in 2010 and was granted 501(c)3 status in 2012. It is an all –volunteer organization operating out of Pittsburg, CA in the SF East Bay.
Laurie Noe, DVM and I saw the need for an animal rescue in our community that focused on senior, special needs, medically needy, shy, plain and hospice animals who were out of time at local shelters and were in danger of being euthanized. We rescue them, take care of all medical needs, place them in foster care, rehabilitate them and then rehome them so that they can be cherished for the rest of their lives.
We hit 3000 placements in November 2018. In doing this, I recognized how profound the impact of an animal can be on human health. Sometimes the line of who rescued who can be blurry with the animals doing as much or more for the people as the people did for the animals.
I wanted to create a program which addressed humans who could benefit from an animal and animals who were desperately in need of someone to give them a chance.
We place senior animals (aged 5+) with senior people (aged 55+) on referral from any healthcare provider who feels that they would benefit from companionship.
By waiving all adoption fees and providing a year’s supply of any needed medications for chronic issues (like arthritis, thyroid, blood pressure etc) for the animal and any prescription food (if needed), we hoped to address the financial concerns that often prevent seniors from owning pets.
We are also willing to take back any placement at any time if the senior is unable to care for them due to illness, death or facility placement which addresses another major concern.
My adoption team, headed by Tish Bilby, has embraced the program and we will be continuing it after the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship has ended.
One interesting fact is that this program has had a net neutral effect fiscally as it helps us move animals into homes who would otherwise stay longer in our care and take up resources that way, so the placements have not impacted our bottom line. My hope is to convince other organizations to take on this program in their communities.
Out of the 29 surveys (of 47 placements) for this program that have been returned to date, we have a 100% satisfaction rate from adopters.