Authors: Curtright A, Turner GS
Title: The influence of a stuffed and live animal on communication in a female with Alzheimer’s dementia
Source: Journal of Medical Speech Language Pathology 2002 10(1): 61-71
Year: 2002
Research Design: Single Case Design

Alzheimer's disease is a debilitating illness that impairs communication. The use of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) within long-term care facilities has been the center of promising research over the last decade (Thomas, 1994; Voelker, 1995). Animals, either stuffed or live, are hypothesized to positively influence the communication ability of individuals with dementia of the Alzheimer's type (DAT). In this study, a stuffed and then a live animal were introduced into the environment of an individual with DAT. Conversations elicited in the presence and absence of the animals were analyzed to determine change in communication output. Conversations were grouped into information units and further described as complete, incomplete, and noninformation units. Complete information units representing a complete thought were, therefore, deemed most meaningful. Based on the results of the present study, the presence of both types of animals within the communicative environment of the individual with DAT was associated with a slight increase in total and complete information units and no change in incomplete and noninformation units. These findings were similar for both animal types. Based on these results, the presence of both stuffed and live animals appeared to have minimal impact on the communication of one individual with DAT. Future directions for research are recommended.

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