Results are in for the second phase of the research study of the effects of animal-assisted therapy on managing responsive behaviours in people with dementia. While the first study involved a look at long-term care residents at McCormick Home, this phase centred on the Home’s staff and their interactions with study participants, family members and observers, and sought out any related impacts to staff morale and the work environment while the animal visits were taking place.
A total of 20 staff members from Memory Lane in McCormick Home participated in the study, which took place in the fall of 2016. In addition to phase one, this secondary study was conducted by Julie Casey, a social worker at King’s University College and therapist with Nourishing Hearts Animal-Assisted Therapy Interventions.
Results indicate that staff morale increased and stress levels decreased in the work environment during the time the animals were visiting the facility. While there were no residual effects of the visits across shifts, the staff who were present during the study times were overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining the program.
“It did make our jobs easier on the floor,” says one participant.
The structured activity of the regular animal visits helped residents to stay calm and engaged, and enabled staff to provide more quality programming for the non-participating residents. The presence of the animals also enhanced positive, spontaneous conversation among not only Memory Lane staff but also among outside staff members who came to see the animals just for fun. Overall, the feedback showed that the presence of the animals contributed to a positive work environment.