PULLMAN, Wash.–Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine will study the effects of companion animal therapy on Alzheimer’s disease patients with a grant of $9,650 from the Archstone Foundation.
The study, “People-Pet Partnership: Companion Animal Visitations,” entails observations and reports of Alzheimer’s patients’ interactions with a trained therapy dog living in the care facility.
“There is limited research on the effect of companion animals on Alzheimer’s patients,” said Daun Martin, the lead researcher and program coordinator at the college’s People-Pet Partnership. “We conducted a preliminary study in 1995, and the results were encouraging enough for us to place a cat in an Alzheimer’s care unit.”
Martin hopes to provide more information on how companion animals benefit Alzheimer’s patients and determine if having a dog at the care facility permanently is more beneficial to both the patients and staff.
Alzheimer’s patients often suffer from depression and anxiety due to the increasing loss of short-term and long-term memory. The presence of companion animals has been shown to decrease these symptoms and enhance other methods of care received by the patients.
The year-long study will involve three local Alzheimer’s care facilities in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. Benny, a recently trained toy poodle, will be the subject animal for much of the work.
The grant is an extension of the Companion Animal Partnership, one of the four programs of People-Pet Partnership. It brings temperament-tested cats, dogs, rabbits and birds to visit residents at local care facilities each week.
“These visits provide a special stimulus and offer the patients ways to communicate and socialize with the pets and volunteers,” explained Martin. “We greatly appreciate the grant from the Archstone Foundation. We find it promising that foundations are recognizing the potential of companion animal therapy as an effective tool for the care of Alzheimer’s patients.”
The Archstone Foundation, formerly known as the FHP Foundation, was established in 1985. Its mission is to contribute toward the preparation of society in meeting the needs of an aging population. The Archstone Foundation’s resources are used to promote the health and well-being of seniors and help all generations plan for the aging process, including addressing issues faced at the end of life and by caregivers.