Aim
The positive effects of animal‐assisted interventions (AAIs) in people with dementia have been frequently reported in the literature. However, it remains unclear if the positive effects are directly due to the presence of the animal. The aim of this study was to investigate if the inclusion of an animal adds value to psychosocial interventions for people with dementia.

Methods
The study followed a within‐subject design with two studied conditions (AAI and control intervention) and several measurement points (baseline (i.e. at beginning of the intervention), after 3 months, and after 6 months). Nineteen nursing home residents with dementia participated in the AAI (with a dog) and the control intervention. Both interventions were delivered as weekly group sessions over a period of 6 months. Outcomes examined were social interaction, emotional expression, and behavioural and psychological symptoms. These outcomes were evaluated by using video recordings at baseline and after 3 and 6 months.

Results
Nineteen patients with moderate to moderately severe dementia who lived in two nursing homes in Germany were included. During the AAI, we detected significantly longer and more frequent periods of positive emotions (pleasure) and social interaction (e.g. touch, body movements) than during the control intervention.

Conclusion
The presence of a dog appears to have beneficial effects on psychosocial intervention for people with dementia.

Sandra Wesenberg Christoph Mueller Frank Nestmann Vjera Holthoff‐Detto

Psychogeriatrics, 04 November 2018

DOI

Website

Effects of an animal‐assisted intervention on social behaviour, emotions, and behavioural and psychological symptoms in nursing home residents with dementia [2019]