The Effects of Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) on Adults with Dementia
Dementia is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal aging” (WHO). There are three general stages of dementia, with symptoms progressing from forgetfulness, to severe behavior changes. Consequently, dementia affects physical, psychological, social, and economic well being. There are currently 50 million people living with dementia and 10 million new cases annually (WHO). There is no cure for dementia, yet there are many ways to offer support and improve the lives of those with the disease, including animal assisted interventions (AAI). According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, human-animal bonds play a significant role in human health and wellbeing (2019). AAI describes the “utilization of various species of animals in diverse manners beneficial to humans” (AVMA). AAI is a non-pharmacological intervention designed to improve human “physical, social, emotional, or cognitive function” (AVMA). The purpose of this Evidence-Based Practice Brief is to compare how the use of animal assisted interventions versus no animal assisted interventions affects symptoms of dementia in adults over the age of 65. The results of this systematic review can help nurses provide evidence-based education on AAI and be utilized by patients to promote quality of life and improve emotional, cognitive, and social functioning.