"As Alzheimer's disease progresses, the need to nurture, love and be loved increases." American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists, 2012 conference in Washington DC
"As Alzheimer's disease progresses, the need to nurture, love and be loved increases." American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists, 2012 conference in Washington DC
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Memorable Pet Case Studies and Independent Research


Pictured above are "Pet Shops" created by Rachael Wonderlin, Gerontologist and Memory Care Director for Senior Services of America.

Rachael Wonderlin created a "Pet Shop" for her residents when working in NC. She says "it was an instant hit"!  You can read her blog at  dementia-by-day.com

Memorable Pet Case Studies in Miami and Los Angeles


Memorable Pets, LLC conducted their own case studies coast to coast in the US and received very positive reviews!

Miami Jewish Hospital 2012, Miami FL-

Bettina donated Memorable Pets for an experiment. Here is the reports we received:


Stuffed Animal Pet Therapy Progress:  It was my manager’s request that try the Memorable Pets stuffed animals during my pet therapy groups. After a period of 1 month, I am actually surprised to witness the outcome of my visits when using both the Golden Retriever and the Calico cat. I care for about 100 residents from Long-Term Care to Rehabilitation status. Below are examples of a couple patients I have noticed great experiences when used the stuffed pets during the 1 to 1 and groups sessions:

1.  Ms. A.C.- is a 83 yr old, female, diagnosed with a stroke and end stage renal failure. Patient is on dialysis patient oriented to person, place and time. On my first visit, I brought our cocktail bird Perla and the golden retriever stuffed animal. I greeted her and before I can say anything else she said “who is your friend?” looking at my left arm. I then, followed by telling her it’s a golden retriever and I haven’t named him yet. Then I proceeded and placed the stuffed animal on her lap. She began petting/stroking the stuffed animal and said “I should name him Junior”, because it looks exactly like the family dog I had growing up. As she smiled, she then began telling me all about this dog she had and she continued petting and stroking the stuffed animal. This was the first proof that this intervention can work. Overall, it was a great experience not only for me, but mostly for her and the reminiscing of her pet. For that period of time, we didn’t even focus on the bird. In future visits I have visited her with our real cat Bella and the Calico cat stuffed animal and the outcome was as pleasant as the first experience.

2. Ms. B.R.-is a 84 year old patient admitted for therapy, oriented to person and partially to place. On my first visit, I came with our pet Bella the real cat and on top of the pet stroller was the stuffed Calico cat. She was very happy to see both and throughout the visit, she believed the stuffed animal was real and was petting it on her lap as she looked at Bella.

In summary, I can say that on my unit, I had a great experience with the 2 stuffed animals. I must say, at first I didn’t think this would work at all, but contrary to my belief, at first glance 80% of patients thought the stuffed animal was real. Most of the patients enjoyed me bringing these stuffed animals along. But, I most add that a therapist must know your population and know who would be appropriate for the use of such innovative intervention to treatment.


The next set examples come from our own Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. CTRS Julie Vaughns, in the industry for over 20 years has also been implementing the stuffed animals to her pet therapy sessions. Her population varies in all levels of dementia/Alzheimer’s and she has been using the stuffed animal without the use of real animals. Below are some of the experiences she had:

1. Ms.P.D.-is a 85 year old high level Alzheimer’s patient. On her visits she was very excited to see the stuffed golden retriever. On these units she did the pet therapy only with the stuffed animal. When she introduced the residents with the Golden, resident started to hug and kiss it, then started to speak to it, and asked it if it wanted to go for a walk. This resident’s excitement level increases whenever Julie returns with the stuffed animal.

2. Ms. R.L.- is a 92 year old agitated Alzheimer’s patient. On a usual day Ms. R.L. will wheel herself around the unit and doesn’t enjoy being at a certain place for a long period of time. When Julie brought with the stuffed Calico cat, the resident was happy and full of joy and started playing around with the cat, petting it and hugging it for a while. This effect was very positive in not only aiding the resident to come down, but also in bringing a smile to her stressed face. When visited with the stuffed Golden dog, resident enjoy wheeling herself around the unit with it and showing it to other residents and staff.

In summary, the introduction of the stuffed pets was more successful and meaningful in the Alzheimer’s/Dementia units than on Brian’s Short term, Rehabilitation units. I am assuming because for these Long term care residents not only brought them happiness but for some, these stuffed animals were able to redirect their thoughts and behaviors for something calming and positive. I am sure that for this particular population, other stuffed animals could also be beneficial. There are probably endless possibilities with the using of these animals and hopefully I will be there to experience this is with patients and residents.


 Brian Vallejo                                                                                                 Julie George

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist                                           Therapeutic Recreation Assistant

Miami Jewish Health Systems                                                                  Miami Jewish Health Systems


Los Angeles Senior Care Homes:

MP Study In LA - LA Daily News and Daily Breeze Article

January 2013


Sisters create Memorable Pets to help people with Alzheimer's, dementia

By Stephanie Cary, Staff Writer

Posted: 01/29/13, 9:00 PM PST

Animal therapy has proven benefits for people suffering from many medical conditions.

But what about stuffed animals?

People with Alzheimer's or age-related dementia are often forced to part ways with their pets. At least that was the case for Betty Dickson and her calico cat, Caldonia.

But her two daughters, Bettina Dickson Rusher and Frances Dickson, quickly came up with a solution - a stuffed animal cat.


 It looked similar to the real Caldonia and they even gave it the same name, but would it work?

 "When I gave it to my mother her first response was `Well, she's artificial,"' recalls Dickson. "Within a week she was attached to it. And over time, we noticed her attachment to Caldonia continued to grow."

Their mother grew so attached to the furry stuffed animal, she passed away while holding it in her arms.

After seeing her attachment and the benefits their mother garnered from the concept, the sisters decided to start Memorable Pets, a company that sells stuffed dogs and cats with 18 percent of their proceeds going to the Alzheimer's Association for research.

"I would say we are a company that promotes stuffed animal therapy for Alzheimer's and mid- to late-stage dementia," Rusher says.

Their mother wasn't the only evidence they had showing it was beneficial. They had been buying stuffed animals as gifts for other residents at the nursing facility where their mother lived, all of whom became attached to the pets.

"As we did research we found that as the cognitive area of the brain is the first to decline, the last thing to decline is the need for comfort and the need for love," Dickson says.

The idea is that the stuffed animal provides the owner with a sense of nurturing. It also can act as a distraction and have a calming effect on the patient.

Memorable Pets are used in Los Angeles at Hollenbeck Palms, a continuing care retirement community, and Angels Nursing Health Center. The company also has sold pets to individuals all over the world, including people in all 50 states, Canada, England, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, and Brazil.

Camille Goldsmith is the director of nursing services at Hollenbeck Palms and has seen the effect stuffed animals have on the patients there. In addition to the Memorable Pets, they also have other types of pets and toys available for the residents with cognitive disabilities. She calls them "security objects."


Since symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia include crying out and depression, these items that provide companionship and comfort are good alternative treatments to medication, Goldsmith says.

"We observe that it is reassuring for them to have a pet to stroke and caress and hug and even look into the eyes and talk to. They become quite possessive of the toys, much like a child who won't sleep without a favorite blanket," Goldsmith says.

"We take measures to keep them clean and replace them if they become worn out, sometimes giving them replacements for a birthday or Christmas. Some of them become as worn as in "The Velveteen Rabbit."


Though some treatments are said to slow down the worsening of symptoms, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's. So patients are mostly treated for quality of life.

But Dickson and Rusher say there were benefits they received as family members, too.

Dickson says that as their mother's disease progressed, there were few topics she could talk about, but Caldonia was always a subject her mother was able to discuss.

It became a connection not only between their mother and the stuffed animal, but with other members of the family.

And knowing their mother was receiving joy and love from Caldonia was also a source of comfort for them.

If you don't have a family member with the disease but still want to help, Memorable Pets also has a ”Pets 2 People" program, where you can buy a stuffed animal and have it delivered to a person in a nursing home. The sisters are working on turning it into a nonprofit program.

To those skeptical of the value of this program, the sisters say people who have a loved one with Alzheimer's disease need to realize that their loved one is living in a confused world, and these comforting, consistent objects can truly be helpful.

And they say most family members begin to understand once they see the pet in their loved one's arms.

"When people see the comfort that many people get from them, they're like, `OK, we get it,"' says Dickson.

Stephanie Cary                         310-543-6630                stephanie.cary@dailybreeze.com


Independent Worldwide Research on Stuffed Animals and Alzheimer's

Memorable Pet stuffed animal dog and cats for people with Alzheimer's or dementia can provide much therapeutic love!


Research shows that people with mid-to-late stages of Alzheimer’s disease continue to feel deep emotion even though memory, language and cognitive functions steadily decline. They have a strong need to nurture and care which stimulates positive emotional feelings such as deep comfort and security.

While a Memorable Pet plush stuffed animal cat or dog may seem to be a small gift, it can have a huge impact on your loved one’s quality of life by providing a constant source of comfort and love.

Related Articles:



New York Times   

Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate                   

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Margaret Nance with the doll that has been calming to her at the Beatitudes nursing home.


Published: December 31, 2010

PHOENIX — Margaret Nance was, to put it mildly, a difficult case. Agitated, combative, often reluctant to eat, she would hit staff members and fellow residents at nursing homes, several of which kicked her out. But when Beatitudes nursing home agreed to an urgent plea to accept her, all that changed.

The Vanishing Mind

Therapy Based on Comfort

Articles in this series are examining the worldwide struggle to find answers about Alzheimer’s disease.

Nancy Mendelsohn, whose mother, Rose Taran, was kicked out of other nursing homes, said she appreciates the independence fostered by the staff of Beatitudes in Phoenix.

Disregarding typical nursing-home rules, Beatitudes allowed Ms. Nance, 96 and afflicted with Alzheimer’s, to sleep, be bathed and dine whenever she wanted, even at 2 a.m. She could eat anything, too, no matter how unhealthy, including unlimited chocolate.

And she was given a baby doll, a move that seemed so jarring that a supervisor initially objected until she saw how calm Ms. Nance became when she rocked, caressed and fed her “baby,” often agreeing to eat herself after the doll “ate” several spoonful’s.

Dementia patients at Beatitudes are allowed practically anything that brings comfort, even an alcoholic “nip at night,” said Tena Alonzo, director of research. “Whatever your vice is, we’re your folks,” she said.

Once, Ms. Alonzo said: “The state tried to cite us for having chocolate on the nursing chart. They were like, ‘It’s not a medication.’ Yes, it is. It’s better than Xanax.”

It is an unusual posture for a nursing home, but Beatitudes is actually following some of the latest science. Research suggests that creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer’s patients diminishes distress and behavior problems.

In fact, science is weighing in on many aspects of taking care of dementia patients, applying evidence-based research to what used to be considered subjective and ad hoc.

With virtually no effective medical treatment for Alzheimer’s yet, most dementia therapy is the caregiving performed by families and nursing homes. Some 11 million people care for Alzheimer’s-afflicted relatives at home. In nursing homes, two-thirds of residents have some dementia.

Caregiving is considered so crucial that several federal and state agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, are adopting research-tested programs to support and train caregivers. This month, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a forum about Alzheimer’s caregiving.

“There’s actually better evidence and more significant results in caregiver interventions than there is in anything to treat this disease so far,” said Lisa P. Gwyther, education director for the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Duke University.

The National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging are now financing caregiving studies on “things that just kind of make the life of an Alzheimer’s patient and his or her caregiver less burdensome,” said Sidney M. Stahl, chief of the Individual Behavioral Processes branch of the Institute on Aging. “At least initially, these seem to be good non-pharmacological techniques.”

Techniques include using food, stuffed animals, scheduling, art, music and exercise to generate positive emotions; engaging patients in activities that salvage fragments of their skills; and helping caregivers be more accepting and competent.  

Changing the Mood

Some efforts involve stopping anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic drugs, used to quell hallucinations or aggression, but potentially harmful to dementia patients, who can be especially sensitive to side effects. Instead, some experts recommend primarily giving drugs for pain or depression, addressing what might be making patients unhappy.

New research suggests emotion persists after cognition deteriorates. In a University of Iowa study, people with brain damage producing Alzheimer’s-like amnesia viewed film clips evoking tears and sadness (“Sophie’s Choice,” “Steel Magnolias”), or laughter and happiness (Bill Cosby, “America’s Funniest Home Videos”).

Six minutes later, participants had trouble recalling the clips. But 30 minutes later, emotion evaluations showed they still felt sad or happy, often more than participants with normal memories. The more memory-impaired patients retained stronger emotions.

“Because you don’t have a memory, there’s this general free-floating state of distress and you can’t really figure out why,” Mr. Feinstein said. Similarly, happy emotions, even from socializing with patients, “could linger well beyond the memories that actually caused them.”

One program for dementia patients cared for by relatives at home creates specific activities related to something they once enjoyed: arranging flowers, stroking pets, filling photo albums, snapping beans.

After four months, patients seemed happier and more active, and showed fewer behavior problems, especially repetitive questioning and shadowing, following caregivers around. And that gave caregivers breaks, important because studies suggest that “what’s good for the caregiver is good for the patient,” Professor Gwyther said.

Aiding the Caregiver

In fact, reducing caregiver stress is considered significant enough in dementia care that federal and state health agencies are adopting programs giving caregivers education and emotional support.

“The patient did not have fewer symptoms,” Dr. Mittelman said. “It was the caregiver’s reaction that changed."


The Veterans Affairs Department is adopting another program, Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health, providing 12 counseling sessions and 5 telephone support group sessions. Studies showed that these measures reduced hospital visits and helped family caregivers manage dementia behaviors.

“Investing in caregiver services and support is very worthwhile,” saving money and letting patients remain home, said Deborah Amdur, chief consultant for care management and social work at the Veterans Affairs Department.

Beatitudes, which takes about 30 moderate to severe dementia sufferers, introduced its program 12 years ago, focusing on individualized care.

“In the old days,” Ms. Alonzo said, “we would find out more about somebody from their obituary than we did when they were alive.”


Finding Favorite Things

For behavior management, Beatitudes plumbs residents’ biographies, soothing one woman, Ruth Ann Clapper, by dabbing on White Shoulders perfume, which her biographical survey indicated she had worn before becoming ill. Food became available constantly, a canny move, Ms. Dougherty said, because people with dementia might be “too distracted” to eat during group meal times, and later “be acting out when what they actually need is food.”

Realizing that nutritious, low-salt, low-fat, doctor-recommended foods might actually discourage people from eating; Ms. Alonzo began carrying chocolate in her pocket. “For God’s sake,” Ms. Mullan said, “if you like bacon, you can have bacon here.”

Comforting food improves behavior and mood because it “sends messages they can still understand: ‘it feels good, therefore I must be in a place where I’m loved,’ ” Ms. Dougherty said.

Now, when Maribeth Gallagher, dementia program director for Hospice of the Valley, which collaborates in running Beatitude’s program, learns someone’s favorite foods, “I’m going to pop that on your tongue, and you’re going to go ‘yum,’ ” she said. “Isn’t that better than an injection?”

Beatitudes also changed activity programming. Instead of group events like bingo, in which few residents could actually participate, staff members, including housekeepers, conduct one-on-one activities: block-building, children’s play with toys, coloring, simply conversing. State regulators initially objected, saying, “Where’s your big group, and what you’re doing isn’t right and doesn’t follow regulations,” Ms. Alonzo said.

These days, hundreds of Arizona physicians, medical students, and staff members at other nursing homes have received Beatitudes’ training, and several Illinois nursing homes are adopting it. The program, which received an award from an industry association, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, also appears to save money.

Arlene Washington’s family moved her to Beatitudes recently, pulling her from another nursing home because of what they considered inattentive and “improper care,” said her husband, William. Mrs. Washington, 86, was heavily medicated, tube fed and unable to communicate, “like she had no life in her,” said Sharon Hibbert, a friend.

At Beatitudes, Dr. Gillian Hamilton, administrative medical director, said she found Mrs. Washington “very sedated,” took her off antipsychotics, and then gradually stopped using the feeding tube. Now Mrs. Washington eats so well she no longer needs the insulin she was receiving. During a recent visit, she was alert, even singing a hymn.

That afternoon, Ms. Nance, in her wheelchair, happily held her baby doll, which she named Benjamin, and commented about raising her sons decades ago.

“I was able,” Ms. Gallagher said, “to find Margaret’s strength.”

She squatted down, complimented Benjamin’s shoes, and said, “You’re the best mom I know.”


Columbia University Study

Columbia News Press

E-mail: rfr2107@columbia.edu 

Experts prescribe children's toys for Alzheimer's patients             

By Rebecca Rosenberg

Fanny wandered the halls of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care nursing home in New York, wearing pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt with a crocheted heart on the front. She clutched in her arms an infant-size doll in a pink jumpsuit.

At first Fanny, in her 80s, smiled broadly, her large blue eyes gazing intently at her surroundings as though she were seeing everything for the first time. Then she walked up to the Hearthstone director, Cindy Suna, tickled her chin and giggled, “Uga, guga, guga, gu.” A bit later in the afternoon, Fanny switched from giddy to confused.

“I don’t know where to go,” she said over and over. “I don’t know where I am.”

Fanny is one of about four million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. As many as 50 percent of people 85 and older have the disease, which causes memory loss and impairment of logical thought processes.

It can be particularly painful for the adult children and spouses of Alzheimer's sufferers, who watch as their loved ones fail to recognize them and lose the ability to speak. The only treatment is using drugs like Aricept, which may delay mental deterioration by no more than a year. Since there is no chance of improvement, many caregivers focus on making Alzheimer's patients as comfortable as possible, using children’s toys, games and picture books to provide solace.

At Hearthstone, like many nursing homes, caregivers hand out plastic baby dolls to women with late-stage Alzheimer’s. “It brings comfort, although at some level it may be disturbing for a family to see Mom holding a doll,” Suna said.

Miriam Josef, a social worker with Cabrini Hospice in New York, agreed that dolls can calm patients and reduce agitation. In a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient, most of the brain has deteriorated except the area that controls the senses and motor function. Many such people have lost their short-term memory. Dolls remind them of childrearing, Josef said, and allow patients to communicate affection.

“As people move toward the end of life and start to regress, they go back to childhood,” she said. “Toys soothe children. Why wouldn’t they soothe those with dementia?”

Susan Glaser, a gerontologist at the Garden of Palms nursing home in Los Angeles, also uses dolls and stuffed animals for patients with Alzheimer’s.


“They see the dolls as live babies and will want to rock them and nurture them,” Glaser said.

Businesses have noticed the trend. The Web site Practical Senior Gifts sells a bright yellow gift basket for nursing home residents. Contents include a cuddly hippopotamus and a smiling plastic sun.

Not everyone approves of the toys. Some family members believe these methods demean adults who have lived full and accomplished lives.

Nancy Meek, a social worker for Silverado Senior Living in Houston, is among those who discourage the practice. She felt that dancing and listening to music were more age-appropriate and effective for her father, who recently died of Alzheimer’s. Although her father was often confused, mistook Meek for his wife and eventually stopped talking entirely, he still responded to music. “He would come alive again, tapping his feet and shaking his hips,” she said. Besides, her father, like many Alzheimer’s patients, occasionally grew aware of his declining condition. She didn't want him holding a Barbie doll during a lucid moment. “Where would this leave his dignity?" she asked. "He’d be sitting there wondering, ‘What are these toys doing here?’”

 An aversion to the use of toys sometimes stems from the denial that a loved one has become like a child, said Gary Small, a psychiatrist at University of California at Los Angeles.

 Lydia Burdick watched as her formerly sociable mother withdrew from the world. In an effort to connect with her, Burdick wrote the picture book “Sunshine on My Face” for people with Alzheimer’s. Her mother’s favorite page read, “I love to take a warm bath and get squeaky clean," accompanied by an illustration of an elderly woman playing in suds. Burdick would ask, “Who likes to take a warm bath?” and her mother would giggle and say, “I do.” For many months, sharing books was the only way Burdick could communicate with her mother, who died in 2003.

 “My goal was to turn the world into as happy a place as I could for her, because there wasn’t much I could do about this disease,” Burdick said. Many people have found Burdick’s book helpful, including Sarah Bodner of Miami, a geriatric psychiatrist whose 84-year-old mother has suffered from Alzheimer’s for eight years. Bodner’s mother calls her “Mom” and crawls into bed with her almost every night. She asks her to read the book over and over, possibly because she forgets she just read it, Bodner said.

 Hearthstone also has less challenging games. One recent afternoon, a caregiver sat down to play Treasure Hunt with a retired professor, Willard. On the table were several toys including a tube filled with colored beads, a butterfly puzzle and a clear plastic container filled with sand, shells, starfish and twine. The caregiver gently placed Willard’s hand into the sand, helping him feel the bumpy exterior of the starfish, the smooth inside of the shells and the coarse twine. Because the senses are largely intact in a person with advanced Alzheimer’s, touching anything with texture can be comforting, Mills said. For people who have become largely unresponsive, like Willard, being read to is an activity that can still elicit emotion.

“A PET scan of a person with advanced Alzheimer’s and a young child’s brain looks very much the same,” he said. “People need to put it in perspective. If a patient is childlike, that’s what’s upsetting, but not the toys. If anything comforts the patient, that’s good.” Dolls and stuffed animals are only a few of the many playthings used to console those with Alzheimer’s.

Hearthstone residents play trivia games that stimulate vocabulary and reasoning skills. For instance, a caregiver might say, “A very young deer is a . . .” and the residents yell out answers.

“This is like a second childhood in many respects, and that’s why Lydia Burdick’s book is spot on,” she said.

Bodner’s mother also displays the less endearing side of childhood. She doesn’t like to take her medication and throws tantrums every other day. Bodner has difficulty persuading her to brush her teeth or put on pajamas before bed. But Bodner said caring for her mother is worth it. “I love my mother,” she said. “I never had children or a husband, and in many ways it shows you that this type of relationship can be gratifying.”


 Detroit Article


Stuffed animals can be comforting for elderly patients


DETROIT - It began with a bear. Possibly a white teddy bear. Kathy Hall can't say for sure. That was three years and a couple thousand stuffed animals ago. What Hall does remember vividly, though, is the horrible sound of wailing that carried throughout the hospital floor.

Ma-ma! Ma-ma!


An elderly woman's grasp of reality had slipped. Curled in a fetal position, she cried out again and again. Staff members at Saratoga Hospital in northeast Detroit were unable to calm her. The longer the pitiful shrieking continued, the more it reminded Hall of a baby crying. That gave her an idea. When small children are upset, she thought, you give them something to cuddle. Hall retrieved a stuffed animal puppy dog that was kept for pediatric patients. ''I thought because she was in a childlike state that maybe this would comfort her somehow,'' says Hall, the nurse manager on the senior care unit. ''She just clutched it instinctively, and it did quiet her down. It seemed therapeutic.''

You won't read about ''stuffed animal therapy'' in any medical journal. But the 30 nurses and aides on Saratoga's seniors ward liberally apply the unique treatment to elderly patients. Between 2,000 and 3,000 stuffed animals have been handed out to people 65 and older who suffer from mental deterioration or loneliness. The hospital staff has found that these small acts of compassion can make a big difference in the lives of those who often have almost nothing.

''What started out as one, simple act by Kathy has turned out to be a terrific ministry for our older patients,'' says Helmut Michelson, the hospital chaplain. ''These may be just stuffed animals to us, but to many of our patients they are true companions.''

These are not just stuffed toys, Hall explains. They are loved. She's also fond of calling them ''babies.'' That's because patients often will cuddle them in their arms and say: ''This is my baby.''

This medication for the soul is dispensed freely. Whenever nurses think a patient could use some cheering up, they reach for a stuffed critter. Many elderly hospital patients have precious little to distract them. ''It's about stepping into the shoes of somebody who's lying there and has nothing, and letting them know that somebody cares about them,'' says Hall, whose official title is administrative director of medical patient care services. ''People are afraid when they go into a hospital or a nursing home. Maybe they have no family, no visitors. Nobody. Maybe they haven't had a gift in 20 years.''


2001 Japan Study

Report Date: 25OCT2001


1Department of Gerontechnology, National Institute for Longevity Sciences, Obu, Aichi, Japan

2Green Home for Elderly Nursing Home, Kitamorokata, Miyazaki, Japan

3Fujimoto-Hayasuzu Hospital, Miyakonojo, Miyazaki, Japan

This study was partly supported by Comprehensive Research on Aging and Health (H11-CRAH-042) and a Research Grant for LongevitySci ences (11C-05) from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.


An animal-shaped toy was provided as a therapeutic tool to patients with severe dementia during a therapeutic program and after dinner. The occupational therapist delivered three animal -shaped toys—a gorilla, a tiger and a dog—during the therapeutic program. These toys performed amusing actions. The occupational therapist observed the activities of the patients and classified them into six categories (no reaction,close observation, talking, clapping, patting the toy, taking care of the toy). The total duration of activities during the period of the therapeutic program was recorded. Most of the patients were interested in the toys, and they looked much happier and less agitated. They became accustomed to the toy dog day by day. The animal-shaped toy is a useful tool for occupational therapy.

Keywords - Therapeutic tool, diversional therapy, toy


Pet therapy has been used to heal the dementia patients [1-4]. Dogs are one of the most popular companion animals, but there are some risks: hazards for the dog, hazards for the patient, sensory overload, dislike of the pet, and so on. On the other hand, a few animal-shaped toys based on robot technology have been developed. Doll therapy has also been applied as a diversional therapy for dementia patients in Australia [5]. In this study, we tried providing animal-shaped toys as a diversional therapy for patients with severe dementia, to decrease the frequency of their agitation and wandering.


Occupational therapy was administered during daytime working hours in Green Home, a nursing home for elderly patients with severe dementia . Formal approval for the study was obtained from the Ethics Committee of the Fujimoto-Hayasuzu Hospital before the toys were delivered to the patients.


We tried providing animal-shaped toys as a diversional therapy for patients with severe dementia. In this study, no significant differences were observed between responses to the three different toys, although patients were more familiar with the dog shape than with the gorilla or the tiger shapes, and they wondered about, or were afraid of, the amusing actions of the toy gorilla and tiger.

Most of the patients were interested in the toy dog after dinner, and they looked much happier and less agitated, although a few fended off from it. We noticed that the patients became accustomed to the toy dog day by day.

Pet therapy is a useful therapeutic tool for patients with severe dementia. Pet therapy is popular, although some risks associated with animal behavior cannot be avoided. On the other hand, these toys are safe, clean and offer the same quality to all patients. Moreover, the toys are relatively inexpensive. Since patient activity varied according to the delivery of the toys, further evaluation is required.


Animal-shaped toys (a gorilla, a tiger and a dog) were provided as therapeutic tools to patients with severe dementia. The occupational therapist observed the patients’ activities. The total time spent in various kinds of activity was recorded. Most of the patients were interested in the toys, and they looked much happier and less agitated. They became accustomed to the toys day by day. The dog was by far the favorite toy and the one the patients could relate to the most.


For the complete study email me at : Bettina@memorablepets.com


[1] L.G. Kongable, J.M. Stolley, K.C. Buckwalter, “Pet therapy for Alzheimer's patients: A survey,” J. Long-term Care Adm., vol. 18, pp. 17-21,1990.

[2] M.H. Zisselman, B.W. Rovner, Y. Shmuely, P. Ferrie, “A pet therapy intervention with geriatric psychiatry inpatients, ” Am. J Occupat. Therapy,vol. 50, pp. 47-51, 1996.

[3] D.A. Forbes, “Strategies for managing behavioural symptomatology associated with dementia of the Alzheimer type: A systematic overview,”Canadian J. Nurs. Res., vol. 30, pp. 67-86, 1998.

[4] S.J. Brodie, F.C. Biley, “An exploration of the potential benefits of petfacilitated therapy,” J. Clin. Nurs., vol. 8, pp. 329-337, 1999.

[5] S. Godfrey, “Doll therapy,” Australian J. Ageing, vol. 13, p. 46, 1995.