The purpose of this exploratory study was to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of using guided interactions with horses as a nonpharmaceutical intervention to improve the physiological and behavioral states of persons with dementia. A convenience sample of persons with dementia was recruited from an adult day health center ( n=16). A multi-component intervention was implemented comprised of opportunities for grooming, painting, and leading horses. Using a randomized pretest-posttest crossover design, researchers compared participants receiving the equine-assisted intervention with participants receiving treatment as usual. Older persons with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias engaged positively in animal-assisted therapy with horses. A reduction in behavioral problems was found post intervention in contrast to the comparison group. Pre-intervention measures showed that participants exhibited lower levels of disruptive behaviors compared with the control group on the days they were scheduled to work with the horses. Interestingly, cortisol levels, used as a physiological measure of coping with stress, were elevated after the intervention in participants with higher Mini Mental State Examination scores. Equine-assisted interventions are feasible and possibly beneficial for adults with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia disorder, such as those enrolled in adult day health programs. Future studies should utilize multiple methods of assessing impact and include process measures to delineate which specific activities seem to provide the most benefit.
|Author Address||College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, 1947 N. College Road, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.firstname.lastname@example.org|