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Animal Assisted Therapy: An Effective Solution for Symptoms of Dementia in Institutionalized Elderly Patients

By Peter Ashley, Jennifer Eriksson, Ashley Jeon

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Background: Dementia is a term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a severe decline in core mental abilities that are not part of the normal ageing process. Memory, communication and language, attention, reasoning and judgement, and visual perception may be significantly impaired. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has been identified as an effective psychosocial therapy to negate the symptoms of dementia. Objectives: This literature review aims to determine the effect of animal-assisted therapy on symptoms of dementia in institutionalized elderly patients. Methods: A structured literature review was conducted. Peer-reviewed articles were searched through Elsevier’s Scopus and included under the following circumstances: (a) AAT study; (b) institutionalized participants; (c) elderly participants; (d) participants with Alzheimer’s or dementia; (e) published in English. Three judges assessed the remaining 34 articles, either accepting (11 studies) or rejecting (23 studies) them. The inter-rater reliability was calculated using Fleiss’ Kappa, where k=1. Results: Many of the epidemiological studies reviewed show that animal-assisted therapy is an effective solution for decreasing emotional, behavioural, cognitive and physical symptoms of dementia, as well as increasing patients’ food intake, weight gain, and self-perceived quality of life. Conclusion: As the number of individuals with dementia is anticipated to increase, further research on the potential benefits of AAT is recommended. These studies should include increased rigour, larger sample sizes and should evaluate the duration of effects over the long term.


Christopher C Charles

Purdue University

Date November 2016
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Assisted living facilities
  3. Dementia
  4. Institutionalization
  5. Long-term care facilities
  6. Nursing homes
  7. Older adults