Animals help the
Alzheimer's Disease Patient
of the many problems facing the person with advanced Alzheimer's
Disease is not taking in enough food. Feeding is often a terrible
problem, because the patients are either running up and down
the hall, or they're so lethargic that they can't stay awake
research Dr. Nancy Edwards, of the School of Nursing, hypothesized
that if patients could be calmed and focused they would increase
their nutritional intake and decrease the amount of supplements
they required. This not only would help reduce the cost of patients'
care, but it's also healthier for the patients to get their
nutrition from food rather than supplements.
together with Alan Beck, found that by exposing Alzheimer's
patients to tanks of brightly colored fish, the patients seemed
to relax and their eating habits improved. The study also showed
a decrease in the number of instances, and the duration, of
behaviors such as wandering, pacing, yelling and physical aggression.
4 weeks Edwards and Beck tracked 60 individuals who resided
in specialized Alzheimer's units in three Indiana nursing homes.
Before placing a fish tank in each nursing home Dr. Edwards
and her students collected information on each patient's eating
and behavioral patterns. The researchers weighed each patient's
food before and after each meal, and patients were evaluated
in 29 types of social interactions
patients who were exposed to the fish tanks appeared to be more
relaxed and alert and ate up to 21 percent more food than they
had before the introduction of the fish tanks. The tanks of
colorful, gliding fish often held patients' attention for up
to 30 minutes, a relatively long time for many Alzheimer's patients,
specially designed tanks used in the study were built by Jeff
Boschert and marketed through his California company Some Thing's
Fishy. Designed specifically for nursing homes, the tip-proof
tanks feature locked tops and unbreakable glass, and a specially
designed background that allows the fish to be easily seen by
residents who may have cataracts or other vision impairments.
The units also can be moved easily from room to room. See www.rollingsea.com
researchers are now designing a second set of studies to replicate
the findings and to further identify the factors-such as color,
motion and sound-which may stimulate patients. In addition,
further studies will exam the value of fish tanks for the hospital
complete analysis of the first set of studies will be published
in the near future.