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animal-assisted activities, communication, cognitive impairment, dementia, nursing students



  1. Yordy, B. Morgan DNP, RN
  2. Pope, W. Stuart DNP, RN
  3. Wang, Chih-Hsuan PhD


Background: Animal-assisted activities (AAAs) show promise in providing emotional and social benefits to older adults and may be used as a tool to promote therapeutic communication between students and cognitively impaired older adults.


Purpose: The purpose was to develop a program incorporating AAAs to enhance social engagement of cognitively impaired older adults in a community respite program and in turn enhance student comfort when caring for this vulnerable population.


Methods: The Dementia Attitudes Scale, a validated tool, was used to measure students' attitudes before and after AAA intervention. Data were analyzed using repeated-measures analysis of variance.


Results: Students were significantly more comfortable and demonstrated a gain in knowledge after AAAs were included in the community clinical experience.


Conclusions: Incorporating AAAs into student community/service-learning clinical experience improved communication between students and cognitively impaired older adults, improving students' attitudes when caring for this population.