Memory loss is not a natural and normal part of ageing, but rather a symptom of a disease process. Most individuals with memory loss experience emotional distress or behavioral problems. There is an enormous amount of pressure on caregivers to manage individuals with memory loss without resorting to the use of pharmacologic and/or physical restraints. Animal assisted therapy is an intervention that can be implemented by caregivers as an alternative method.
In this thesis paper, research of animals in therapy for elderly is reviewed and used to provide a guide on the topic. A history of animal therapy, definitions of terminology, and a summary of types of therapies using animals. Research in animal therapy involving elderly is reviewed, followed by a discussion of benefits, challenges and ethical considerations. Well being of animals in elderly therapy is explored, followed by summary, possible future directions in animal therapy and a conclusion. The aim is to provide thoughtful and practical information for the caregiver interested in animal assisted therapy.
The research questions used are:
1. What is animal assisted therapy and how can it be used in an elderly setting?
2. What are the documented effects of animal assisted therapy on elderly clients with memory disorders and can it help those elderly with inappropriate behaviors?
The theoretical frameworks used are based on the Biophilia theory and the Social Support Theory, primarily the emotional and companionship aspects. Limitations encountered were lack of concrete evidence and limited Gerontology journals. Material was gathered using electronic databases and available research. Animal therapy is a promising alternative or complimentary intervention that can be used to manage inappropriate behaviors in the elderly.