Impacts on staff of caring for people with dementia who have participated in animal-assisted therapy

Julie Casey and Rick Csiernik, School of Social Work, King’s University College
2016 – 2017

Background

The study assesses the impact on staff of an animal-assisted intervention for individuals living with dementia in a long-term care home.

Twenty-one staff who worked on the dementia unit were individually interviewed to get their reactions to the introduction of animal-assisted therapy; the impact on residents, staff and families; and overall mood and morale within the unit. Questions explored if they felt it made their job easier or harder, if they noticed any changes in agitation, and if they noticed any difference in caring for people on program and non-program days.

Findings

Day staff were overwhelmingly in favour of the program, citing improvements in residents’ functioning and behaviour and consequently having positive effects on the workplace environment.  They reported that residents were temporarily calmer and more engaged. They also reported a better working atmosphere.

However, since the animal intervention took place in the morning, staff on afternoon and night shifts did not report seeing any benefit of the animals in their work environment nor did they see any protracted change in the behaviour of residents. Residents retained no memory of previous animal engagement, and the effect was not sustained.

Dissemination
Papers/Articles 
  1. Casey, J., Csiernik, R., Knezevic, D., & Ebear, J. (2017). The impact of animal-assisted intervention on staff in a seniors residential care facility. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1-11.
  2. Fleck, M. (2018). Pawsitive impacts at McCormick Home: Results of an animal therapy project on staff. Ontario Long Term Care Association, Online. https://www.oltca.com/oltca/OLTCA/Public/Good_News/PawsitiveImpacts.aspx

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