More Than a Best Friend: Service Animals Improve Quality of Life

If you’ve visited one of our PACE Centers in California, Colorado or New Mexico, you’ve probably seen a furry friend roaming the halls greeting participants in their path. This is likely one of our service animals or therapy dogs.

Gizmo, an InnovAge companionship dog

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that animals (service, therapy or companionship) have been known to provide physical and mental health benefits to those around them. Studies show animal companionship can greatly affect the quality of our lives. Below are some of the theorized advantages:

Physical Health Benefits

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Regulated heart rate
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Lower levels of stress
  • Fewer doctor visits
  • Fewer sick days off from work
  • More exercise

Mental Health Benefits

  • Sense of responsibility
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Greater empathy
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Increased participation in social and physical activities
  • Less loneliness

Service vs. therapy vs. companionship

Service animals must be individually trained to perform tasks related to a participant’s disabilities while therapy animals belong to a therapist or psychiatric personnel and must be accompanied by them at all times.

Service animals are trained to behave flawlessly in public and will even tuck themselves under tables so as not to be an inconvenience to those around them. Therapy animals often provide comfort and companionship to others by listening to them read or accompanying them during appointments.

Companionship animals are virtually indistinguishable from the family pet and may not behave perfectly in public. For this reason, companionship animals are not allowed in most public places and must remain at home.

For more information

Get more information about a service animal for yourself or a family member.

To schedule a tour of a PACE Center please call 888-992-4464, email or visit our Locations page to find a center near you.

New Mexico Association Honors Gail Stockman’s Service, Volunteer Work

By Christina Pope
It’s one thing to receive an award; it’s quite another to have an award named after you. Gail Stockman now has that honor.
Gail Stockman
Gail Stockman
The InnovAge Greater New Mexico PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) occupational therapist was sitting in the audience at the annual meeting of the New Mexico Occupational Therapy Association in September when a new award was announced. It was established to recognize extraordinary volunteers giving service to NMOTA – New Mexico Occupational Therapy Association and the profession. And it was named for someone widely admired and respected.
When Gail’s name was called, she received a standing ovation from the room full of 250 attendees. She is now the namesake of the NMOTA Gail Stockman Award for Meritorious Service.

“I was completely surprised,” Gail says. “As they described this person, I kept trying to figure out who it was.”

Gail has devoted a significant portion of her career and unpaid time to being a clinical educator. She has mentored more than 30 occupational therapy students, which requires 12 weeks of full-time advising and training. She has served on the New Mexico Board of Examiners for Occupational Therapy and volunteered for seven NMOTA annual conferences.
“I love teaching,” Gail says. Before coming to InnovAge five years ago, Gail served on the faculty of the University of New Mexico occupational therapy graduate program. She still teaches classes on death and dying and aging in place.

“One of the tasks I challenge students with is to create a realistic plan for a homebound person on a limited budget,” she says. “What we have to work with at InnovAge isn’t the norm. We get to do what is right for that person.”

Gail works closely with her home care colleagues and loves the team concept of PACE. Her main responsibilities at InnovAge are the pre-PACE and 6-month assessments and meaningful occupational training with participants.
“I think the best part is the participants,” she says. “I get to hear their stories, and I really enjoy it. I have 200 grandparents.”

InnovAge Nurse VanDerMeulen Loves PACE so Much, It’s Become a Habit

By Christina Pope
When Lacey VanDerMeulen moved to Colorado from Battle Creek, Michigan, two years ago, she was sad to leave behind her job with the CentraCare PACE program there. She was a clinic licensed practical nurse (LPN) who had moved up to a case manager position as a registered nurse (RN).

“I love the idea that we really get to know the participants. Everyone really cares about one another,” she says of the Loveland center, where she’s just celebrated her one-year anniversary. “We can pick up on things that a clinical staff wouldn’t notice otherwise.”

Lacey’s healthcare career comes naturally — her mom works in radiology and her dad in hospital maintenance. She came to Colorado with her husband so he could pursue a Ph.D. in psychology, but found that she loves it so much her parents have now moved to Pagosa Springs, Colo., and one brother has moved to Fort Collins, Colo. (“We’re still working on my other brother,” she says.”)
Lacey VanDerMeulen
Lacey VanDerMeulen
“At any moment, I can get to the mountains,” she says. “I love hiking and sightseeing.”
Loveland center employees wear a lot of hats. Lacey runs the triage room, wound care, and handles medication ordering and packaging for delivery. Lacey and Dr. Mason Shamis recently welcomed Medical Assistant Cecilia Salas to the clinic team.
Lacey has done the nursing assessment for every new InnovAge Greater Colorado PACE – North Center in Loveland participant who has joined since the center’s doors opened less than a year ago. When a new participant joins InnovAge PACE, one of the first tasks is a head-to-toe nursing assessment. Each body system is checked to establish a baseline. That enables the nurse to identify areas for improvement and recommend interventions.

“I like that we keep participants as independent as possible,” she says.

One of the biggest sources of satisfaction in her job is to be a help to the family caregivers. ”Lots of caregivers get really burned out,” she says. “Being here, I get to step in. I feel privileged to be able to do that for people.”

PACE: Alternative to Institutionalization

InnovAge’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Price says the Program of All-inclusive Care for the

Dr. Lisa Price, Chief Medical Officer, InnovAge
Dr. Lisa Price, Chief Medical Officer, InnovAge

Elderly is one way to keep older adults from being institutionalized.

“PACE helps caregivers with help managing loved ones during the day and provides ideas and tips on how to manage the care of older adults at night while remaining in their own homes.”

Read her article now at Medical Economics.