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Animal-assisted therapy for dementia (Review)

Author(s)

LAI NM, et al

Publisher(s):

Cochrane Collaboration

Publication year:

2019

Background: A range of new therapeutic strategies has been evaluated in research, and the use of trained animals in therapy sessions, termed animal‐assisted therapy (AAT), is receiving increasing attention. Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of animal‐assisted therapy for people with dementia. Search methods: Medical databases were searched for this review to September 2019. Key characteristics of included studies: This study included nine randomised controlled trials (clinical studies where people are randomly put into one of two or more treatment groups), involving 305 people with dementia, which compared AAT to a control treatment (either usual care or an alternative treatment). All studies took place in Europe or the US. Seven studies compared AAT to usual care or to another activity which had nothing to do with animals. Two studies compared AAT (using live animals) to the use of robotic animals. One study compared AAT to the use of a soft toy cat. Key findings: this study found evidence from two studies with 83 participants that people with dementia who had AAT were possibly slightly less depressed at the end of treatment than people who had standard care or other interventions not related to animals. The study also found evidence from three studies with 164 participants that people who received AAT had no clear difference in their quality of life compared to those who did not. However, the study found no evidence of an effect on social functioning (interactions with their environment and families), behaviour, agitation, activities of daily living, self‐care ability or balance. There were no clear differences when AAT was compared with the use of a robotic animal in two studies, or with the use of a soft toy cat in one study. Conclusions: AAT may slightly reduce depressive symptoms. Otherwise, no conclusions can yet be drawn on whether AAT is beneficial or safe for people with dementia. The small size of the included studies, and the diversity of outcomes and outcome measures, were major issues. The researchers recommend further well‐conducted studies with the inclusion of important outcomes such as emotional and social well‐being, quality of life, side effects, and effects on the animals. (Edited publisher abstract)


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