Animal-assisted therapy and managing responsive behaviours in people with dementia

Julie Casey and Rick Csiernik, School of Social Work, King’s University College
2016 – 2018

Background

An animal-assisted intervention study was conducted employing farm animals (rabbit, chickens, goat, sheep) with individuals living with dementia at McCormick Home to assess if the intervention had any impact on behaviour. Fifteen individuals met the eligibility criteria but only ten were able to participate in more than 67% of the sessions. Sessions consisted of petting, grooming, and walking the animals; singing animal related songs, learning about the animal’s history, species and breed; training the animal; reminiscing about past human-animal interactions and relationships; and reflecting on the animal’s behaviours.  Individuals engaged in three one-hour sessions per week for eight weeks.

Findings

Outcomes were either positive or neutral, including increased restful sleeping, decreases in verbally aggressive behaviour and depression, and less resistance to care. The outcomes were sufficient to warrant a larger-scale investigation working with farm animals and this population.

Dissemination
Papers/Articles
  1. Casey, J., & Csiernik, R. (2018). Farm animal assisted intervention with individuals with dementia: An exploratory study. International Journal of Social Work and Human Services Practice, 6(1), 15-21.
  2. Crawford, S., Fleck, M. (Dec 2018). Animal assisted therapy in long-term care. Hospital News, pp 24-25.
  3. Fleck, M. (Spring/Summer 2018). Animal therapy: Study shows animals can generate positive reactions and enhanced wellbeing. Long-Term Care Today, p 40.
Posters/Presentations
  1. Casey, J. (2017) Nourishing Hearts: Animal assisted interventions. 18th Annual Therapeutic Recreation Ontario Conference, London, ON, May 31-June 2, 2017. (Poster)

If you have any questions, please contact Steve Crawford, CEO, McCormick Care Group, at 519-432-2648 ext. 2319, or by e-mail at scrawford@mccormickcare.ca