Benefits and challenges of animal-assisted therapy in older adults: a literature review
evidence and practice    

Benefits and challenges of animal-assisted therapy in older adults: a literature review

Ashley Veilleux , Lab Instructor and Part-Time Faculty, Nursing, St Lawrence College, Cornwall, Ontario ON, Canada

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the health benefits of animal-assisted therapy in older adults in hospitals and long-term care settings

  • To understand the challenges of animal-assisted therapy in relation to sustainability and infection prevention and control

  • To source evidence for implementing animal-assisted therapy interventions in your setting

Animal-assisted therapy involves the use of highly trained animals, such as dogs and cats, in conjunction with conventional treatments to address the physical and emotional needs of patients. This article presents a literature review of the health benefits and challenges associated with the use of animal-assisted therapy in the care of older patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Eleven original research articles were included and three themes were identified: physiological outcomes, psychological outcomes, and challenges associated with using animal-assisted therapy in patient care. The literature review aims to enhance nurses’ knowledge of the health benefits of animal-assisted therapy as an adjunct to traditional treatments. It found that animal-assisted therapy can improve sleep, reduce depression and enhance mood in older patients. Challenges were identified in relation to ensuring infection prevention and control and in sustaining the implementation and benefits of interventions. Further research is necessary to explore the sustainability and long-term benefits of animal-assisted therapy in healthcare settings.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11625

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

aveilleux@sl.on.ca

Conflict of interest

None declared

Veilleux A (2020) Benefits and challenges of animal-assisted therapy in older adults: a literature review. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11625

Published online: 21 December 2020

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