Caring for Horses Eases Symptoms of Dementia

May 2014

Ohio State University

"The researchers saw obvious signs that the clients enjoyed their time on the farm: they smiled, laughed and talked to the horses. Even those who normally acted withdrawn became fully engaged in the experience.

There was a clear improvement in dementia-related behavior among the clients who visited the farm. To track behavior, the researchers used a scoring system called the Modified Nursing Home Behavior Problem Scale, in which staff at the center rated the frequency with which the participants fidgeted, resisted care, became upset or lost their temper on days they went to the farm or stayed at the center.

On a scale of zero to four—zero meaning the client never engaged in the problem behavior, and four meaning that they always engaged in it—scores for the participants who went to the farm were an average of one point lower than the scores for their peers who stayed at the center. So clients who visited the farm were, on average, better behaved throughout that day."

"There was one unexpected benefit, though: the therapy boosted physical activity. The clients all had physical limitations, but when presented with the horses, they were inspired to push the boundaries of those limitations.

Some clients who never wanted to leave their wheelchair asked for help in standing up; others who rarely wanted to walk stood up and walked unassisted, though a caretaker was always there to help them balance. The clients grew more physically active on each visit to the farm."

full article here

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