Pawsitive impacts at McCormick Home

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 (see Long Term Care Today magazine, Spring/Summer 2018).

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.

Sweet Pea, the sheep; Barley, the bunny; Blossom, the goat; and chickens Daisy and Delilah garnered much attention and positive reaction from staff and observers during the data-collection phase of the initial project, extending into the phase-two study partnership between McCormick Dementia Research and King’s University College.  

A resident sits on a bench with a chicken in her lap while others look onA 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.

The benefits of animal contact on people with dementia extended even further than originally anticipated, resulting in residual positive outcomes for those who provide their care.

For more information, please contact Steve Crawford, CEO, McCormick Care Group, at 519-432-2648 ext. 2319 or [email protected]

In photo: researcher Julie Casey interacts with a McCormick Home resident as part of the animal-assisted therapy research project at McCormick Home.