At The Palace Gardens in Homestead, when pets visit the assisted living and memory care community, there are always smiles and laughter. Several times a week each month, residents are visited by therapy animals including Prada, the Golden Retriever; Dot, the Yorkie; and Finnegan, the Collie, along with their handlers.
Pet therapy is being used for therapeutic purposes in many senior living communities and the use of therapy animals has been found to promote health and healing and help those who are depressed,
chronically ill or have ongoing disabilities.
“Being around the animals just seems to make people happier,” said Jennifer Almodovar, Memory Care
Activities Director. There has been extensive research on the value of pets and it’s been found that just
fifteen minutes spent bonding with an animal promotes hormonal changes within the brain. The brain
produces serotonin, the feel-good hormone, along with prolactin and oxytocin and this causes stress
levels to drop. It’s been a source of great joy for our residents with Alzheimer’s and other memory-
Being with a therapy animal can help bring some withdrawn seniors out of their shells making them
happier and more communicative.
“The dog visits spark memories as people may want to talk about the dogs they had in lives. These are
good conversation starters between residents and their caregivers,” she said. “This is especially
important for residents with dementia who may have difficulty using language. The attention a therapy
dog provides can be particularly soothing.”
The dogs that visit the community are registered therapy dogs. A therapy dog is different than a service
dog that requires specialized training. While a therapy dog doesn’t need any specific training, Almodovar
always makes sure they will be comfortable in the community’ setting with residents.
“Many of the handlers bringing the dogs to visit have lost loved ones to Alzheimer’s disease and have a
connection with the residents,” she added. “It’s an opportunity for them to give back as well.”
To learn more about the care available at The Palace Gardens Homestead for memory support, please
call 305.247.0446. The Palace Gardens is located across from Baptist Homestead Hospital and offers
assisted living and memory care in a luxurious, casual, tropical setting. The community is CARF-
accredited and received a “Silver” award from the National Association of Home Builders for “Best
Assisted Living Community” in 2016 and 2018. To learn more about The Palace Gardens, please visit