Evaluation of a Pet-Assisted Living Intervention for Improving Functional Status in Assisted Living Residents With Mild to Moderate Cognitive Impairment: A Pilot Study

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In older adults with cognitive impairment (CI), decreased functional status and increased behavioral symptoms require relocation from assisted living (AL) to nursing homes. Studies support positive effects of pets on health/function.


Evaluate the effectiveness of the Pet AL (PAL) intervention to support physical, behavioral, and emotional function in AL residents with CI.


Cognitively impaired AL residents randomized to 60-90 minute sessions [PAL (n = 22) or reminiscing (n = 18)] twice/week for 12 weeks. PAL interventionist encourages residents to perform skills with the visiting dog; reminiscing interventionist encourages residents to reminisce. Monthly assessment of physical (energy expenditure, activities of daily living), emotional (depression, apathy), and behavioral (agitation) function.


In linear mixed models, physical activity depressive symptoms improved more with PAL.


Evidence supports that the PAL program helps preserve/enhance function of AL residents with CI. Additional study is required to evaluate the duration and predictors of effectiveness of the PAL intervention.

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