OBJECTIVES: The prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms in cognitively impaired nursing home residents is known to be very high, with depression and agitation being the most common symptoms. The possible effects of a 12-week intervention with animal-assisted activities (AAA) in nursing homes were studied. The primary outcomes related to depression, agitation and quality of life (QoL).
METHOD: A prospective, cluster randomized multicentre trial with a follow-up measurement 3 months after end of intervention was used. Inclusion criteria were men and women aged 65 years or older, with a diagnosis of dementia or having a cognitive deficit. Ten nursing homes were randomized to either AAA with a dog or a control group with treatment as usual. In total, 58 participants were recruited: 28 in the intervention group and 30 in the control group. The intervention consisted of a 30-min session with AAA twice weekly for 12 weeks in groups of three to six participants, led by a qualified dog handler. Norwegian versions of the Cornell Scale for Depression, the Brief Agitation Rating Scale and the Quality of Life in Late-stage Dementia scale were used.
RESULTS: A significant effect on depression and QoL was found for participants with severe dementia at follow-up. For QoL, a significant effect of AAA was also found immediately after the intervention. No effects on agitation were found.
CONCLUSIONS: Animal-assisted activities may have a positive effect on symptoms of depression and QoL in older people with dementia, especially those in a late stage. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- Aged, 80 and over
- Cognition Disorders/psychology
- Depressive Disorder/therapy
- Nursing Homes/statistics & numerical data
- Prospective Studies
- Psychomotor Agitation/therapy
- Quality of Life/psychology