Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Communication Disorders

First Advisor

Ladan Ghazi Saidi

Committee Members

Miechelle McKelvey, Kate Heelan


agitation;animal-assisted therapy;dementia;job satisfaction;job-related stress;picture recognition


The use of animals for therapeutic purposes has existed for centuries. However, it was not until recently that people realized the human-animal interaction has potential effects on our overall health. Human-animal interaction positively impacts humans' social, emotional, and cognitive functions (Woods et al., 2005). This research encompasses two studies. Both studies examined the therapeutic effects of an animal-assisted therapy (AAT) dog presence on communication abilities and agitation of individuals with mild to severe dementia residing in a long-term care facility. Study 1 examined agitated behaviors, communications, and social interactions of older adults with dementia living in a long-term care facility using a homemade General Health Survey (GHS), Agitated Behavioral Scale (ABS), and a Picture Recognition Activity (PRA). Study 1 showed statistically significant decreases in agitated behaviors and a statistically significant increase in social interaction and picture recognition with vs without AAT. Study 2 is a retrospective study completed on the nursing staff to examine the potential indirect effects of ATT on job satisfaction and work-related stress levels while caring for individuals with dementia in Study 1. Study 2 indicated an increase in job satisfaction and decreased job-related stress as reported by the nursing staff when working with dementia participants who had received AAT. Study 1 and Study 2 demonstrated an increase in overall communication among all five residents with dementia on days when animal-assisted therapy was present.



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