Alzheimer’s horse-play

Posted under Blog on May 22nd, 2014 by Editorial Team / No Comments

New research has shown that spending time with horses could provide relief for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The impact of this equestrian therapy has shown to have a positive impact on both physical and mental wellness in the study participants.

The most common, well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. But as a result of changes in the brain and the frustration of their declining memory, personality changes can also be seen in people with the condition. Withdrawal, irritability and difficulty communicating are often secondary symptoms that manifest in people fighting the disease.

Care homes provide many services that attempt to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease; arts, crafts and even gardening have been shown to have a positive impact on patients’ wellness in care homes. But, in a new study conducted by Ohio State University, the results found that allowing patients to spend time with horses once a week had a significant impact on their mental and physical state.

The university team paired up with National Church Residences Center for Senior Health in Columbus, Ohio and recruited 16 patients for the short study. The patients would spend time feeding, grooming and walking specially trained therapy horses. "The experience immediately lifted their mood and we saw a connection to fewer incidents of negative behaviour," said study author Holly Dabelko-Schoeny.

On the days out to the farm, patients were seen to smile, laugh and even talk to the horses as they engaged with the animals. Following visits to the farm, patients were less likely to show resistance to care efforts from staff at the home. Not only this, but patients’ moods were greatly improved, and they became less agitated and more willing to converse.

Over the course of the month-long study, the group that regularly visited the farm showed reduced symptoms compared to those who didn’t. Even patients who are prone to being withdrawn took an active interest and remained engaged during and after the visits.

As there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers at Ohio State University say that the focus should be patient care. "Our focus is on the 'now.' What can we do to make them feel better and enjoy themselves right now?" The author added. "Even if they don't remember it later, how can we help in this moment?"

Tags: Alzheimer's, Horses, Ohio State University, Pet therapy

Research suggests Alzheimer’s patients less likely to get cancer and vice versa

Posted under Blog on May 8th, 2014 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Scientists from the National Research Council of Italy have found that elderly people with Alzheimer’s are 50% less likely to get cancer than others of the same age, and that those with cancer are 35% less likely to get Alzheimer’s.

Results of a six-year study, which used the health records of over 200,000 people aged 60+, suggested that there could be genes which increase the likelihood of developing  either cancer or Alzheimer’s, but at the same time reduce the risk of developing the other.

The link may be due to the fact that cancer is caused by increasing and uncontrolled cell growth, whilst Alzheimer’s is caused by the death of cells, so a genetic factor may be tipping a person’s body towards either cell growth, or cell deterioration.

The research findings may prove useful in developing treatments for both conditions in the future.  

Memories of pets coax patients’ smiles

Posted under Blog on April 25th, 2014 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Pets can often provide companionship to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. They are there in the morning, and they are there when you go to sleep. The benefits of having a furry friend have been shown to improve memory and communication skills.

Nurses and volunteers at Yeovil Hospital in the UK created a workshop where they knitted handheld replicas of the pets once owned by the Alzheimer’s patients at the hospital. Patients may then remember the black Labrador that was with a family for 15 years or the West Highland Terrier that reminded them of home.

This is just one example of the innovative ways that hospitals and care homes are attempting to connect with patients who live with Alzheimer’s disease. “The effect of the knitted pets is hard to quantify but if it raises a smile with a patient - honestly, there is no better feeling,” said Janine Valentine, nurse consultant for dementia and the elderly at Yeovil Hospital.

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease statistically do not fare well at hospital. Their average stay is 20 per cent longer than other related conditions and they are three times more likely to suffer from an injury. The scheme at Yeovil Hospital has attempted to find a way for doctors and nurses to quickly build relationships with the elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Her work stands at the heart of a campaign called Face to a Name which aims to transform the way the elderly and those with dementia are cared for in hospitals across Britain. The campaign, created by Giovanna Forte and Jake Arnold Foster, was borne out of the notion that doctors and nurses can easily forget that elderly patients were once like them.

The Face to a Name campaign is working with Yeovil Hospital, as well as a number of hospices and nursing homes across the country. It has shown to bridge the gap between carers and the elderly, who are so often misunderstood.

Tags: Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Face to a Name, knitted pets, Yeovil Hospital



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