ANIMALS ARE AGREEABLE FRIENDS
“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” -George Eliot
Animals introduced into nursing homes as home companions or as regular visitors have been shown to have positive effects, including reducing blood pressure, agitation, strain, tension and loneliness. These forms of social contact have also proven beneficial in the treatment of behaviour problems in people with dementia.
For example, the presence of a dog has been shown to decrease agitation and social isolation in people with Alzheimer’s Disease, It can also lead to greater alertness, increased non-verbal communication and interaction, improved engagement and improved night time sleep. Over time, interaction with a companion animal by people with Alzheimer’s Disease can lead to fewer episodes of verbal aggression and anxiety.
A meta-analysis indicated that Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes for behavioural problems, emotional well being and medical difficulties (Nimer & Lundahl, 2007). Subsequent reviews of the literature that specifically focus on older adults, show that the most frequently reported benefits are increased social behaviour and decreased agitation (Filan & LlewellynJones, 2006; Perkins, Bartlett, Travers, & Rand, 2008). Even the use of a fish tank in a dining area has been shown to reduce aggression and enhance the nutritional intake of care home residents with dementia (Edwards, 2004).