Animal-assisted therapy includes unusual partners

Pigs and horses and chickens, oh my.

That seems to be part of the animal-assisted therapy (AAT) equation today. And the recipients are Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, who number 5.3 million in the United States, cost taxpayers $226 billion, and result in high caregiver burnout, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

That’s where pigs and horses and chickens come in.

Boris and Pumba, two pot-bellied pigs, visit nursing homes and Alzheimer’s facilities in Denver, surprising residents, triggering laughter, and sniffing out carrots, reported KUSA 9News.

Pumpkin, a miniature horse, brings a different experience: reminding residents of days gone by when they lived around or worked with horses, Laura Skinner, Pumpkin’s owner, told KRCR News. 

And then there is Clementine, a chicken in Westford, Mass. Clementine doesn’t interact. She doesn’t reach for food. She doesn’t necessarily make you laugh. She just sits in residents' laps and soothes the agitation that comes with dementia, Ellen Levinson, executive director of Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley, told the Boston Globe

NEWStat Interesting/unusual