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Keywords:

  • animal-assisted activities;
  • Attention Restorative Theory;
  • mental fatigue;
  • older people

Aim.  The aim of this study was to describe the interaction between cage-birds and older people as it arises in spontaneous situations in a Swedish hospital ward setting.

Background.  Older people are at risk of being affected by mental fatigue because of various age-related reductions and disease. Mental fatigue manifests itself through a reduced ability to concentrate. The method of alleviating mental fatigue with the use of stimulating natural settings or animal-assisted activities is so far unexplored in Sweden and subsequently it is important to study the method in a Swedish context to implement it as a recognized nursing intervention in the care of older people.

Design.  The study had an explorative observational design, and was conducted at a geriatric ward with a consecutive selection of participants.

Method.  The observations were analysed using a constant comparative method influenced by Grounded Theory. ‘Attention restorative theory’ was used as the theoretical framework to guide the study.

Result.  Our findings indicate that animal-assisted therapy has a positive effect on involuntary attention and mental restoration, as well as on enhanced social behaviour among older people.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The result strengthens the assumption that animal companionship should be considered a beneficial nursing intervention for older people to prevent mental fatigue.