A new study from Ohio State University in the United States suggests an activity that may ease symptoms of the condition; caring for horses.
Such activity is known as equine therapy. It uses interaction with horses to stimulate emotional well-being in an array of disorders, including depression, cerebral palsy and autism. According to the research team, it is a common treatment for children and teenagers with emotional and developmental disorders and involves grooming, feeding and walking horses.
But in this latest study, published in the journal Anthrozoös, the researchers found that the therapy could be effective for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers found that the individuals who took part in equine therapy scored an average of one point lower on the Modified Nursing Home Behavior Problem Scale, compared with those who continued with their usual activities.
The team noticed that for patients with less severe Alzheimer’s, equine therapy led to an increase in cortisol levels. However, the researchers say this could be an increase in “good stress” as a result of being in a new environment.
They were surprised to find that some subjects who took part in equine therapy showed increased physical activity – some participants who rarely left their wheelchairs wanted to stand up and walk unassisted. This physical activity increased with every session.