Animal-assisted Therapy as a physical therapy resource for institutionalized elderly

Fernanda Cechetti, Aline Souza Pagnussat, Karenina Elisa Marim, Priscila Bertuol, Flávia Zambom Todero, Suelen Antônia de Oliveira Ballardim

Abstract


Aims: To evaluate the effects of Animal-assisted Therapy on the gait and balance of institutionalized elderly.

Methods: This is a non-controlled before-after clinical trial. The study was conducted at “Lar da Velhice São Francisco de Assis,”, a nursing home located in Caxias do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Elderly volunteers of both sexes were selected, and those with any musculoskeletal, neurological, or cognitive conditions that could interfere with the results were excluded. Three dogs that were properly trained by a professional trainer and met the specific criteria for animal-assisted therapy were used. The group performed 10 therapy sessions in four weeks. The following tests were used for assessing the gait and balance of the elderly participants: Berg Balance scale, Tinetti Balance test, Functional Reach test, and Six-Meter-Walk test. The tests were applied before and after animal-assisted therapy.

Results: The study included nine subjects, aged 68 to 79 years. Regarding balance and postural control, individuals showed a significant improvement in post-treatment outcome when compared to pre-treatment, according to the Berg Balance scale (z=2.26 p=0.02) and Functional Reach test (z=2.2 p=0.02). In the gait assessment, the Tinetti test score averaged 7.9±2.8 before therapy and 9.2±1.6 after therapy (z=2.02 p=0.04). The Six-Meter-Walk test after therapy revealed a significant decrease in the time necessary to complete the six-meter course. The average time was 20.2±19 seconds prior to therapy and  9.2±7 seconds after therapy (z=2.47 p=0.01).

Conclusions: Both assessed parameters showed significant improvement, suggesting important outcomes regarding gait and balance after the use of Animal-assisted Therapy in institutionalized elderly individuals.

Keywords


animal assisted therapy; elderly; institutionalization; physical therapy specialty.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15448/1980-6108.2016.3.23686

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