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).
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.
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.
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.
|International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
|John Wiley & Sons
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