Effects of dog-assisted intervention on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia
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Effects of dog-assisted intervention on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia

Lena Nordgren Senior lecturer, School of Health, Care and Welfare, Mälardalen University, Eskilstuna, Sweden
Gabriella Engström Assistant professor, Christine E Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, United States

Lena Nordgren and Gabriella Engström present the results from a study that used dogs as an alternative or a complement to pharmacological treatments

Aim To evaluate the effect of a dog-assisted intervention on the behavioural and psychological symptoms of residents with dementia during a six-month period.

Method The study was conducted in eight nursing homes in Sweden. A total of 33 residents with dementia, 20 in the intervention group and 13 in the control group, were recruited. The Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) and the Multi-Dimensional Dementia Assessment Scale (MDDAS) were used to assess the effects of a dog-assisted intervention on participants’ behavioural and psychological symptoms. The intervention comprised ten sessions, lasting between 45 and 60 minutes, once or twice a week. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse background data, comparisons between groups at baseline were performed using the Mann-Whitney U test, and the Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to test differences in groups over time.

Results In the intervention group changes from baseline to follow up immediately after the intervention were not significant, possibly because of the small sample size. Some positive tendencies were observed: the CMAI mean score for physical non-aggressive behaviours decreased from 18.5 at baseline to 15.3 at follow up immediately after the intervention; lower scores indicate fewer symptoms. Mean and median MDDAS scores for behavioural symptoms decreased from 15.3 and 13.5 respectively at baseline to 13.1 and 12.0 respectively at follow up immediately after the intervention; lower scores indicate fewer symptoms. The CMAI mean score for verbal agitation increased significantly (P=0.035) from 17.2 at baseline to 20.6 at follow up six months after the intervention.

Conclusion Dog-assisted intervention may provide an alternative or a complement to pharmacological treatments to reduce behavioural symptoms in people with dementia, but its value and place in care require further evaluation.

Nursing Older People. 26, 3,31-38. doi: 10.7748/nop2014.03.26.3.31.e517

Correspondence

lena.nordgren@mdh.se

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 19 August 2013

Accepted: 14 January 2014