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Title:The Effect of Minimal Care Pets on Homebound Elderly and Their Professional Caregivers
Author(s):Gowing, Clover Brodhead
Department / Program:Health and Safety Education
Discipline:Health and Safety Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Education, Health
Abstract:A major purpose of this study was to determine whether or not keeping minimal care pets, such as goldfish, could have an effect on the health status and social interaction of homebound elderly people living alone and receiving home health care services. Another purpose was to assess the effect of this activity on the relationships between the home health caregivers and their frail clients who kept goldfish.
The high incidence of pet ownership among Americans (nearly 50 percent) and among the elderly (26 percent), as well as the reported benefits of the human-companion animal bond provided the impetus for this research. The limitations of health and/or income prevent many old people from having the cognitive stimulation and structure in their lives that taking care of a pet provides.
A non-random sample was selected of 33 clients and their 17 caregivers of six home health care agencies in east central Illinois. The clients were assigned to a treatment group (n = 20) and received a goldfish with supplies; or to a comparison group (n = 13) and received no goldfish. Caregivers' attitudes about pets for their clients were assessed by self-administered pretest and posttest. The caregivers interviewed their clients and collected data over a six-week study period using instruments for pretest, observations, and posttest.
The activity of keeping a goldfish had no statistically significant effects on most of the health and social interaction measures used in this study. However, an Attachment Intensity Index, developed for this research to present and evaluate the qualitative data, showed client behaviors associated with attachment, suggestive of various degrees of involvement with the goldfish. If confirmed that goldfish could serve as pets which provided cognitive stimulation, and that interest and responsibility could be sustained over time for frail elderly people. Caregivers perceived the fish-keeping as a diversion which promoted conversation, and for 50 percent of them, improved relationships with their clients.
Recommendations include a call for additional research using a larger sample and a single-subject, two-condition design; for refinement of the Attachment Intensity Index; for broader utilization of caregivers to collect data; and for dissemination of information about the value of minimal care pets.
Issue Date:1984
Description:198 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1984.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8502155
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1984

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