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An exploratory study of an equine-assisted intervention for people with dementia living in a residential care facility




Busselman, Sarah L., author
Wood, Wendy, advisor
Hooper, Barb, committee member
Breummer, Jason, committee member

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There are an estimated 5.3 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or related dementias (Alzheimer's Association, 2015) and the prevalence of dementia is predicted to rise to one million new cases per year. As there is no cure for dementia, health care for people with dementia has begun to incorporate nonpharmacological approaches that aim to improve quality of life. Environmentally based approaches, such as music therapy, aromatherapy, and animal-assisted interventions were found to be effective nonpharmacological interventions for people with dementia (Padilla, 2011b; Wood, Hoesly, Rose, & McLure, in press). Initial evidence produced by Dabelko-Schoeny et al. (2014) indicates that an equine-assisted intervention for people with dementia is feasible and can reduce problematic behaviors. The current mixed methods exploratory case study aimed to investigate: 1) the negative and positive quality of life indicators, and 2) environmental correlates of positive and negative quality of life indicators, specifically occupational opportunities and environmental supports, that are offered during an equine-assisted intervention. The program selected for this study was Riding in the Moment, an equine-assisted intervention for people with dementia. I video recorded observations of four participants during four one-hour sessions of Riding in the Moment. I used the Activity in Context and Time (Wood, 2005) to code quality of life indicators present during eight of the sixteen recorded observations. During the program, I recorded field notes, which were qualitatively analyzed using the Lived Environment Life Quality Model (Wood, Lampe, Logan, Metcalfe, & Hoesly, 2016) to describe the occupational opportunities and physical and social environmental supports. Results revealed that participants with dementia demonstrated more and longer durations of positive quality of life indicators in comparison to negative quality of life indicators during Riding in the Moment. Qualitative findings revealed a number of occupational opportunities offered, such as riding, grooming, and petting the horse. Qualitative findings also revealed various physical and social environmental supports that were critical to supporting engagement. Overall, the Riding in the Moment program was an engaging, equine-assisted intervention that promoted autonomy in an enriched environment.


2017 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

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dementia-specific quality of life
lived environment life quality model
equine-assisted intervention


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