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regularly visited the farm showed reduced symptoms compared to those who didn’t. Even patients who are prone to being withdrawn took an active interest and remained engaged during and after the visits.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



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