Animal Assisted Therapy in Care

Recently I wrote about the potential benefits of pet ownership in a residential care setting.

I am sure that many care homes have pets – either owned by the home or by the residents who live there. There are also numerous homes, where families and friends bring their own pets into the home to visit. Such occasions are always enjoyable – not only for the person being visited, but also for the other residents.

Let’s consider another aspect of the presence of animals in a care setting.

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves an animal with specific characteristics becoming a fundamental part of an intervention approach.

AAT is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning, as well as provide educational and motivational effectiveness for participants.

AAT can be provided on an individual or group basis. The whole interaction process is documented and evaluated to determine progress.

The benefits to this approach are numerous:

Physical Health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Can improve dexterity (feeding, filling water bowls, etc.)
  • Can improve balance and
Mental Health

Studies in 2007 show improved outcomes in people with symptoms associated with autistic spectrum disorders.

There were improved outcomes for people who were on a journey through dementia.

Some of the benefits included:

1. Improved verbal communication
2. Improved concentration span
3. Improved self-esteem
4. Reduced levels of anxiety
5. Reduction in feelings of loneliness


Studies in both 2005 and 2007 showed that AAT provided a space where residents felt more motivated to engage and interact with others during group activity. Their ability to engage and interact with their peers improved and their relationship with staff improved.

It is clear that where AAT is considered and used in relation to older people, who are on a journey with dementia, that there are major benefits to be enjoyed.

Please consider just how important pets are in your life and how this can have a major impact on others.