The topic of this research proposal is the effective of use of pet therapy with elderly patients. Pet therapy has been shown to be useful in many populations for various purposes such as eliciting positive responses to children with Autism to bringing a little happiness and joy to those in the hospital recovering from a procedure. The aim of this research proposal is to measure the effect of pet therapy on the elderly who are living in nursing homes. The hypothesis is: does regular pet therapy decrease depression and anxiety in the elderly who are living in a nursing home? The hope is that the pet therapy will have a positive influence on elderly residents.
Background and Context
In his research, Haugan (2013), states that the most rapidly growing segment of the population are the elderly, ages eighty and older. This population is faced with issues such as increasing or worsening medical diseases and facing mortality. The need for nursing home care has increased in light of these needs. The author states the need for palliative care at this point in life. The aim is to make elderly patients comfortable and content at this stage in their life (Haugan 2013).
There has been much research into the presence of anxiety and depression in the elderly who suffer from a form of cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, but not as much research has been completed on those with no cognitive issues. Drageset, Eide, and Ranhoff (2012) conducted a study to determine the prevalence of these conditions and what methods of treatment were being employed in the elderly. The researchers found that factors such as gender (more females than males suffer from anxiety and depression), length of stay at the nursing home and comorbid physical illness all increased the likelihood of anxiety and depression. The majority of these patients, once diagnosed are treated with medication (Drageset, Eide and Ranhoff 2012).
Keeping small pets such as fish and birds and even “caring” for computer generated pates has been proven to be successful in helping the elderly cope with depression (Cherniack & Cherniack 2014). The review of several small scale studies on the subject of caring for animals produced positive results in elderly patients with or without cognitive issues. One study reviewed, incorporated dog therapy to patients with dementia and anxiety. Twice a week for one hour, the participants engaged with a service dog through petting it, grooming it and feeding it. The study demonstrated improvement in patients’ moods after this therapy. The introduction of small pets or computer pets and their effects on the elderly living at home also had positive results (Cherniack & Cherniack 2014).
The research that has previously been completed has shown that the elderly in nursing homes do suffer from depression and anxiety. The emotional reasons are not important in relation to this study however. Pet therapy of all kinds had proven effective in studies to alleviate depression and boost well-being in the elderly who either live at home or in a nursing home. Much of the research on the current use of animal therapy in nursing home with patients who are not negatively affected by a cognitive disorder is either out of date or completed out of this context.
This empirical study will compare the use of dog therapy on a regular basis in nursing homes. The therapy will be introduced to one group, while a control group will not be exposed to the therapy. Comparisons of the levels of depression and anxiety before and after the therapy will be measured and compared. The assessment that will be employed to measure the anxiety and depression will be the Depression Rating Scale (Huang & Carpenter 2011).
The participants will be chosen from four local nursing homes. A sample of forty participants would be ideal. Consent for the study will be obtained. The participants will be randomly placed in each of the four locations into either the group receiving the dog therapy or the group not receiving the intervention. The Depression Rating Scale will be administered interview style with all of the participants prior to the introduction of the dogs. Two local owners and their service-trained and certified dogs will volunteer to participate in the study. Consistency with the animal and the trainer are important for this study. The animals will visit the residents three times a week for two hour periods. Participants will be scheduled to spend 15 minute sessions with the dog over the three sessions each week, totaling 45 minutes a week of exposure and interaction. The study will conclude after 8 weeks and the Depression Rating Scale will again be administered.
Project Management Plan
The consent and pre-assessment will be completed over a three week period. After this stage is complete, a schedule will be developed among the four nursing homes, the animals and their trainers and the patients to ensure the three, 15 minute sessions each week. The experiment will continue for eight weeks. After the termination of the intervention, the post-assessment will be conducted over the course of three weeks. Analysis and interpretation of the collected data will be available two weeks after the completion of the study.
It is expected that the introduction of the dog therapy will be beneficial to the residents of the nursing homes. To increase an elderly patients’ contentment is the desired result of this study. If the results prove to be successful, the research team would like to introduce regular dog therapy for all of the patients at the nursing homes.
Cherniack, E.P., & Cherniack, A.R. (2014). The benefits of pets and animal-assisted therapy
Drageset, J., Eide, G.E., & Ranhoff, A,H. (2013). Anxiety and depression among nursing home
residents without cognitive impairments. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 27(4),
872-881. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2012.01095.x
Haugan, G. (2014). Meaning in life in nursing home patients: a correlate with physical and
emotional symptoms. Journal of Clinical Nursing, (23)7/8, 1030-1043. DOI:
Huang, Y., & Carpenter, I. (2011). Identifying elderly depression using the depression rating
scale as part of comprehensive standardized care assessment in nursing homes. Aging and
Mental Health, 15(8), 1045-1051. DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2011.583626