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An Exploration of Equine-Assisted Therapy to Improve Balance, Functional Capacity, and Cognition in Older Adults With Alzheimer Disease

Borges de Araujo, Thais PT, MSc1; Martins, Wagner Rodrigues PT, PhD2; Freitas, Marco Polo PhD3; Camargos, Einstein PhD3; Mota, Jéssica PT4; Safons, Marisete Peralta FE, PhD1

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: July/September 2019 - Volume 42 - Issue 3 - p E155–E160
doi: 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000167
Case Series
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Background and Purpose: Alzheimer disease (AD) is a chronic, progressive dementia syndrome that features cognitive and behavioral symptoms, as well as physical and functional limitations that develop over the course of the disease. As an activity that involves physical and cognitive aspects, equine-assisted therapy (EAT) could be a useful therapeutic approach in conditions that involve physical and cognitive decline. However, to date, there are no reports of the use of this therapy in participants with AD. Within this context, the objective of this case series was to describe the effects of EAT on balance, functional capacity, and cognition in older adults diagnosed with AD.

Methods: We enrolled 9 participants, of both sexes, with a mean age of 79.7 (7.8) years and a diagnosis of AD. The study intervention comprised 20 sessions of EAT. We evaluated participants at baseline and at the end of the intervention. Outcome measures were balance (force plate), functional capacity (Timed Up and Go test and 30-second chair stand test), and cognition (verbal fluency and Mini-Mental State Examination).

Results: Comparison between the pre- and postintervention time points (Wilcoxon test) revealed significant improvements in balance (center of pressure in the anterior-posterior direction, P = .017) and functional capacity (Timed Up and Go test, P = .036, and 30-second chair stand test, P = .012).

Conclusion: These findings provide evidence of an association between EAT and improved balance and functional capacity in older adults with AD, with no significant impact on cognitive performance.

1Graduate Program in Physical Education, School of Physical Education, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, DF, Bazil.

2Graduate Program in Public Health, Faculdade de Ceilândia, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, DF, Bazil.

3Graduate Program in Medical Sciences, School of Medicine, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, DF, Bazil.

4Faculdade de Ceilândia, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília, DF, Bazil.

Address correspondence to: Thais Borges de Araujo, PT, MSc, QE 19 Conjunto O Casa 25 Guará II, 71050-153 – Brasília, DF, Brazil (fisioterapeuta.thais@gmail.com).

This article was accepted for presentation at the Innovations and State of the Art in Dementia Research conference (http://alzheimers-dementia.org), to be held on September 7, 2017, in Rome, Italy.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Kerstin Palombaro was the Decision Editor.

© 2019 Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy, APTA
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