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Animal therapy a big part of life at Vista Living Care The Arbors


Some of the most popular residents at The Arbors are Lulu, Luna, Pepper and Blue Sky.

They are, respectively, a rabbit, a kitten, a goat and a horse.

The Arbors is also home to a couple of turtles, a small herd of ducks and a few colorful birds.

“We use animals a lot for therapy,” said The Arbors Assistant Executive Director Monica Leos. “They have brought a lot of comfort to our residents here.”

The Arbors is one of three Vista Living Care facilities for dementia patients in New Mexico. The other two, Sierra Vista and Vista Hermosa, are in Santa Fe. Vista Living Care is owned by a family in Ohio, Leos said. The Arbors has been in operation for more than 20 years.

The animals can be very calming for dementia patients, who may suffer from a lot of emotions, including fear and paranoia, Leos said. Along with subdued lighting and noise levels and a slower pace, the animals help contribute to the overall atmosphere of tranquility at The Arbors, she said, and to the comfort and independence of the guests.

Lulu, Luna, Pepper, Blue Sky and the other animals can also be soothing for The Arbors staff, Leos said.

She often visits Blue Sky, “to see what he’s up to, talk to him, tell him your problems,” she said.

The Arbors is licensed for up to 24 guests, Leos said, who have varying degrees of dementia.

Leos, The Arbors Executive Director Bianca R. Loya and other staff work closely with doctors and families to ensure the best care for each guest, Leos said. They also work closely with Mesilla Valley Hospice, she said, and know The Arbors might be a patient’s last home.

The more The Arbors staff of more than 20 know about their patients, the better able they are able “to communicate and connect” with them, she said. Staff also receive regular training on dementia care, Leos said.

That includes validation therapy, which allows each guest to live his or her own reality, Leos said, which can be “very important when it comes to dementia care.”

The facility also emphasizes safety, cleanliness and good food for its guests, she said.

“We take away all their worries,” Leos said. “We simplify their lives.”

That’s why knowing each guest as an individual is so important to The Arbors, staff, she said.

“We don’t want institutional living,” Leos said.

Not having a set wake-up time each morning is just one example, she said.

“You wake up whenever you want to wake up,” Leos said, and patients “can stay in their jammies” all day if they want to.

Patients can also walk or sit in The Arbors’ secure Zen-like garden, where they will find Blue Sky, Pepper and other animals to spend a little quality time with.

The Arbors, 3731 Del Rey Blvd., provides 24-7 care for its guests.

Contact the Arbors at 575-382-5288. Contact Loya at bloya@vistaliving.com.

Contact Leos at mleos@vistaliving.com. Visit vistaliving.com.

The Arbors