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Keywords:

  • elderly;
  • mental illness;
  • pet therapy

Abstract

Background:  To evaluate the effects of pet therapy on cognitive function, mood and perceived quality of life on elderly inpatients (mean age 84.7 years; 95.2% women) affected by dementia, depression and psychosis.

Methods:  Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and 15-items Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) were administered to 10 patients (pet group) and 11 controls (control group) together with a self-perceived quality-of-life questionnaire, before and after a pet therapy intervention that lasted 6 weeks. MMSE and GDS mean scores were compared between and within groups by Student's t-test.

Results:  Both the pet group and control group improved on GDS and MMSE. Within the pet group, GDS symptoms decreased by 50% (from 5.9 to 2.7, P= 0.013), whereas mean MMSE score increased by 4.5 (P= 0.060). The between group comparison showed a positive effect of pet therapy intervention on GDS (P= 0.070). Most of the participants reported an improvement of their perceived quality of life.

Conclusions:  Pet therapy is efficient in improving depressive symptoms and cognitive function in residents of long-term care facilities with mental illness.