In front of you, there are three incredibly different people. Muhammad Ali – American Boxer and three-time World Heavyweight Champion. Michael J. Fox – Canadian-American actor and author. Adolf Hitler – totalitarian leader of the Nazi party. Three different people, all impaired by the same disorder: Parkinson’s disease. How many of you actually know what Parkinson’s disease is? None? That’s what I thought.
Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder. It occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired. Normally, these cells produce a vital chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine allows smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement. When these cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease appear.
The sufferer endures a wide range of symptoms. Tremor, slowness of movement, rigidity, difficulty with balance, small, cramped handwriting, stiff facial expressions, shuffling walk, muffled speech, and depression. They quickly become trapped in their own bodies. What makes it worse, it that it shows no mercy. Affecting both men and women, it is estimated that 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, joining the 1 million Americans who currently have Parkinson's disease.
While the condition usually develops after the age of 65, 15% of those diagnosed are under 50. In the fall of 2008, my grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. A devastating diagnosis, we had to take immediate action. It became readily apparent that his life will be forever changed, without a promising cure or treatment.
Some options include gene therapy, neuroprotective treatments, and neural transplantation. However, all three are extensive, expensive, and require much greater amounts of research. Instead, the patient needs to focus on reshaping their own lives.
This includes learning to pace yourself, prioritize goals, and make timely use of physical, occupational and speech therapies. All of these will enhance your physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being, and can make all the difference in how you enjoy life and maintain your independence. Essentially, you must stay active.
One way to stay active and positive: dance or any activity that requires slow, controlled movements. However, after much research and inquiring I found one treatment plan that seemed most reasonable, promising, and enjoyable. A superb way to stay active and maintain a positive attitude is through animal assisted therapy.
Play video from 0:14 to 1:40
Animal-assisted therapy (or AAT) can simply be the addition of an animal into a lifestyle. Pets are a common calmer in many homes across the world. We take care of them and they take care of us. Medical practitioners, veterinarians, health care professionals and others in many different fields are using this unique human-animal bond for its potential therapeutic value.
Many people have wonderful memories of pets, after living a whole life with an affectionate companion following you at your side. Many abilities to form healthy relationships could have stemmed from our experiences with pets. Pets may also teach children (or re-teach senior citizens) the responsibilities of daily life as well as compassion.
Animals have been proven to aid patients suffering for loneliness and depression. They add a sense of safety and protection. Pets force us to slow down, step back, and enjoy the simplistic nature of life. Everyone is busy nowadays and this fast-paced blur rushes us strait into a nursing home. Having a pet to take care up and come home to every day keeps someone young.
Many times, domesticated animals who simply love to be around you reduce anxiety. With their juvenile attributes, they can relax the patient, allowing them to forget the stresses and frustrations from the day. A tight bond grows very quickly and never dissolves. This is true across the board – anyone can benefit from the love and companionship of a pet.
Animal-assisted therapy can be used for anyone of any age. Simply by having a pet by your side, you are implementing the tactics of AAT.
“ The psychology behind the human companion animal bond is based primarily on three fundamental principles: 1) all people need to love and be loved; 2) all people need to feel worthwhile; and 3) pets can fulfill these needs” (Ormerod).
Having a pet around can increase feelings of happiness, security, and self-worth. It has been shown that pets reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation on a daily basis and during separations or transitions. “Pets have a place in our intrinsic desire for close and caring affectionate bonds with others” (Paladino).
Pets may also teach children (or re-teach senior citizens) the responsibilities of daily life as well as compassion.
They provide a connection to nature when one seems to be trapped in their own bodies or trapped indoors.
More specifically, in elderly patients, work with therapy pets can increase mobility, lower blood pressure, reduce physical effects of stress, assist in the recollection of memories, and teach motor skills. More specifically, AAT can increase the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which affect our attitudes and make us feel better. The most basic and common help that AAT offers is the improvement of motor skills, increased range of motion, balance, and mobility. This seemed perfect for my grandfather.
“ Animal-assisted therapy offers promise as a psychosocial intervention for people with dementia” (Filan). In these patients, who are already receiving hours upon hours of therapeutic treatment, AAT allows these processes to proceed more effectively and quickly.
As I continued to research animal-assisted therapy and its potential benefits on Parkinson’s patients, this project became an incredibly personal one.
My own dog, Armstrong, was hit by a car last March. After major surgery and 10 months of recovery time and physical therapy, he is now on the mend. In fact he is doing quite well. For the past few months, as my hands on project I have been working on getting Armstrong to be an official therapy pet. Because his life changed so much, I wanted to give him a new outlet.
Armstrong has an immediate affect on people; one that is very different than human interaction. Both the animal and patient benefit in this relationship. My intentions with this project are to teach this to my grandfather in the hopes that he will pursue AAT.
Before he could go on visits, however, he had to do his own therapy. With the therapist, he worked on stretching, muscle strengthening, and even walked on a treadmill.
While he is not officially certified, as the training registry has not come to town yet, he is fully prepared for visits. I will be formally finishing my hands on project over the next year. Through my church, he is scheduled to visit members of the congregation who can no longer leave their homes. I will be joining my minister next week to visit several homes.
Animal Assisted Therapy Final Presentation
Muhammad Ali Michael J. Fox Adolf Hitler http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q458IgW-lLk&feature=fvw
Works Cited <ul><li>“ Adolf Hitler.” Online Image. 2000. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler </li></ul><ul><li>Antonini, A. “Unraveling Depression in Parkinson’s Disease.” European Journal of Neurology . Volume 15. (2008): 885 – 886. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>Banks, Marian R and William A. “The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Loneliness in an Elderly Population in Long-Term Care Facilities.” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences . 57:M428-M432. (2002). </li></ul><ul><li>Blackman, Diane. Visiting Pets and Animal Assisted Therapy. DogPlay: Activities for Dogs. 25 January, 2005. Web. 29 September 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Ebadi, Manuchair S. and Ronald Pfeiffer. Parkinson’s Disease . New York: CRC Press, 2005. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>Edwards, Nancy E. and Beck, Alan M. Animal-Assisted Therapy and Nutrition in Alzheimer’s Disease. Western Journal of Nursing Research. Vol. 24, No. 6, 697-712 (2002). </li></ul><ul><li>Factor, Stewart A and William J. Weiner. Parkinson’s Disease: Diagnosis and Clinical Management . New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2002. Edition 2, illustrated. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>Filan, Susan L. and Robert H. Llewellyn-Jones. Animal-Assisted Therapy for Dementia. Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia, 18:4: 597-611. (2006). </li></ul><ul><li>“ Gene Therapy.” Online Image. 2000. http://nileherb.blogspot.com/2008/11/parkinsons-disease-full-spectrum.html </li></ul><ul><li>Herrera, Carlos. “Shaking Hands.” Online Image. 2003. Science Museum. http://www.sciencemuseum.org/ </li></ul>
Works Cited <ul><li>King, Laurie A. and Fay B Horak. “Delaying Mobility Disability in People with Parkinson Disease Using a Sensorimotor Agility Exercise Program.” Physical Therapy . Volume 89.4. (April 2009): 384 – 391. </li></ul><ul><li>King, Lynda M. Animal-Assisted Therapy: A Guide for Professional Counselors, School Counselors, Social Workers and Educators. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2007. Print. </li></ul><ul><li>Marr, Carolyn A. Animal-assisted therapy in psychiatric rehabilitation . A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, Volume 13, Number 1, 2000, pp. 43-47(5). </li></ul><ul><li>“ Michael J. Fox.” Online Image. 2001. Live Journal . http://www.livejournal.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>“ Muhammad Ali.” Online Image. 1971. SH Collective Magazine . http://shcollective.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>“ Parkinson’s Disease.” Online Image. Brown University Biomedical Program . http://biomed.brown.edu </li></ul><ul><li>“ Rigidity.” Online Image. 2004. Wikipedia . http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Chris_73/Work2 </li></ul>