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Equine-Assisted Intervention for People with Dementia

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Abstract:

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.

Keywords: ADULT DAY CARE; ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE; CORTISOL; DEMENTIA; ELDERLY; EQUINE-ASSISTED THERAPY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175303714X13837396326611

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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  • Anthrozoos is the journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology and is a vital forum for academic dialogue on human-animal relations. It is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal that has enjoyed a distinguished history as a pioneer in the field since its launch in 1987. The key premise of Anthrozoos is to address the characteristics and consequences of interactions and relationships between people and non-human animals across areas as varied as anthropology, ethology, medicine, psychology, veterinary medicine and zoology. Articles therefore cover the full range of human animal relations, from their treatment in the arts and humanities, through to behavioral, biological, social and health sciences..

    Fast Track articles are uncorrected proofs of articles that have yet to be published in an issue.

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