Julie Casey MSW, RSW

Wellness Care Farm

Nourishing Hearts

Animal Assisted Interventions Research


Humans and animals have been evolving together through the domestication process for ten thousand years which involved sensory, tactile and social interactions that stimulated the release of oxytocin; a hormone that changed our chemistry that “yielded a relaxation that made our modern civilization possible” (Olmert, 2009, p. 180). It is only within the last one hundred years that humans have made a move away from animals, Meg Daley Olmert, the author of Made for Each Other (2009), explains, we are the first society to walk away en masse from animals with the abrupt shift from farm to factory. What impact has this move had on society?  Lott and Hart poised this inquiry in 1977,  “For centuries we have studied the animals who have come to share our lives. We have asked how much and in what ways we have been their creators. Perhaps we should also ask to what extent they have been ours” (p. 184).

Animal Assisted Interventions is gaining a stronger presence with society and is being utilized by diverse and multidisciplinary professions, to help ameliorate diverse human needs in a variety  of health care settings. Despite the increasing body of knowledge on animal assisted interventions, little is empirically known about the impact of these interventions. According to Stern and Chur-Hansen (2013), the research largely remains at anecdotal, descriptive and case report level and lacks scientific rigor to support these findings.  A review of the existing literature indicated animal assisted interventions implemented long term care facilities to help lessen the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia experienced by the elderly, have been research and suggest the interventions do have an effect on the symptoms.  

Nourishing Hearts' Research With McCormick Dementia Research

Farm Animal Assisted Therapy & Dementia Research Study

Nourishing Hearts has partnered with McCormick Care Group and King's University College at Western and is currently researching the impact of farm therapy animals, as a non pharmacological intervention, on the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia for participants in the middle to late stages of the disease.  The findings from this study will add to the growing body of research for both animal assisted interventions and non pharmacological interventions for aggressive behavioural symptoms of dementia, contributing to future research on similar topics.

Impact of Farm Animal Assisted Therapy on Residents, Staff and the Facility Morale 

A secondary qualitative study interviewing McCormick Home long term care facility staff to gain a deeper understanding of the intervention's impact on residents, staff and overall facility morale.

Check out the Ontario Long Term Care Association's story on Nourishing Hearts research project at McCormick Home

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