Many pharmacists at HPS Pharmacies pursue additional education opportunities to further advance their expertise and the level of professional services they provide. One such pharmacist is Dr Shir Ley Tan, Pharmacy Manager at Calvary North Adelaide. HPS Pharmacies is proud to share the intervention protocol developed by Shir Ley and her colleagues which was recently published on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

This protocol, entitled Animal‐assisted therapy for dementia, will be used to evaluate the safety and efficacy of animal-assisted therapy for people with dementia. It is estimated that more than 436,000 Australians are currently living with dementia. As this is an age-related disorder, the prevalence of dementia is expected to increase in Australia due to our ageing population.

Dementia is a devastating diagnosis for patients and their families. Initial symptoms may relate to an impaired ability to learn and remember new information. However, the progressive nature of the condition means that patients will often also experience significant declines in abstract thinking, judgement, verbal fluency, orientation, comprehension and the ability to perform complex tasks. Unfortunately, no therapy to date has been found to be clearly and consistently effective in preventing or halting the progression of dementia.

It has been suggested that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) may be able to improve symptoms and possibly also functional abilities in people who have dementia. AAT simply refers to the use of an animal in the treatment of human physical or psychological disorders. It is not a new concept, having been formally introduced in 1969. AAT, using dogs, cats, or aquatic animals, may reduce loneliness and agitation in people with dementia as a result of increased social interaction.

Shir Ley and her colleagues have identified the lack of systematic reviews of randomised controlled clinical trials specifically related to the use of AAT in people with dementia. The analyses to be performed by Shir Ley and her colleagues using their protocol will add to the growing body of data on AAT and dementia. It is anticipated that the results will help guide practice, guideline and policy development, as well as future research.

We look forward to reading the results of this innovative study.

A full text version of the protocol can be accessed at Cochrane Library.

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