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500-Plus Animals Part of the Team at Healthcare Organization

Firm Spends Half-Million Annually to Provide "Critter Comforts"

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- A kangaroo, fifty-six dogs, forty-five cats, two miniature horses, two pot-bellied pigs, five rabbits, three guinea pigs and more than 400 fish and birds.

It's not the scene inside Noah's ark or an animal shelter. It's the menagerie at a healthcare company that invests more than $500,000 annually in caring for the pets that reside at its communities. The organization has also written and copyrighted a 40-page animal care manual that, among other things, lists requirements for the minimum number of pets at its locations, rather than mandating maximum limits.

The company is Silverado Senior Living, which operates 16 memory care communities and 11 service line branch offices in California, Texas, and Utah. Through Silverado at Home, the company provides home care and care management, and it offers hospice care through Silverado Hospice.

Silverado executives say having so many pets of so many kinds residing full-time at their communities goes far beyond traditional pet therapy and is essential to creating what they call Silverado's "living environment." One of the company's star animal residents is Elliott, a red kangaroo that lives at Silverado's Aspen Park community in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"We all know that pets provide the affection and unconditional love that can brighten seniors' lives," said Loren Shook, Silverado's president and CEO. "But at Silverado, we understand that the positive impact of animals can go even deeper. For example, we involve our residents in caring for the animals on a daily basis. Helping to walk, groom and feed them increases our residents' feelings of self-esteem and worth because they feel they are being productive. This is tremendously important, because it's so easy for those with memory impairment to feel helpless and unworthy and become depressed as a result."

Examples of how animals have changed the lives of Silverado's residents are myriad.

"One lady with no family came here after her husband passed away and she was completely despondent," said Carole Shaw, administrator of Silverado's memory impairment community in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The community is home to seven dogs, seven cats, a pot-bellied pig, a chinchilla, as well as guinea pigs, birds, and fish. The community also brings a full-grown horse to visit residents in their rooms. "One of our cats 'adopted' her and began to go to her room every night to sleep with her. The lady's life was transformed. She began to find tremendous satisfaction and happiness because of having the cat to care for."

According to Shook, Silverado's unusual policies regarding pets are among the reasons for the substantial impact the company has had on its residents' health. Since 1999, more than 1,400 Silverado residents have regained the ability to walk and over 1,100 have learned to feed themselves again, thanks to the company's care practices.

Silverado's copyrighted pet-care manual, "Our Living Environment: Philosophies on Pet Care and Policies and Procedures," requires that each Silverado memory impairment community have at least one dog and one cat for every 25 residents, one bird for every four residents, and one aquarium for every 40 residents.

Most of the pets are adopted from animal rescue organizations and Silverado executives are constantly on the lookout for new creatures for their menagerie. Employees are also encouraged to bring their own pets to work, not only for their own pleasure, but for the residents, as well.

Silverado Senior Living, founded in 1996, is headquartered in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The company's web site is:

SOURCE Silverado Senior Living
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