Purpose: Living with Alzheimer's disease (AD) can involve a person being unable to recall and convey information in daily life. There are several ways to provide person-centred care to older people with AD, e.g. by empowering them in a situation. The use of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) with a therapy dog in the care of people with dementia is increasing, with the presence of a therapy dog being described as improving, among other things, the well-being and socialization of the person. The aim of this study was to illuminate meanings of care for people with AD in their encounters with a therapy dog.
Method: The study used video-recorded observations of the person with AD and the dog. Data were transcribed and analysed using a phenomenological hermeneutic method.
Results: The main theme was "Using one's own resources and abilities as a human being", which meant being the person one can be and distancing oneself from the symptoms of AD during the time with the dog.
Conclusions: The feelings evoked in the people with AD included empathy and altruism, which allowed for a sense of joy and tenderness, which may induce a sense of self-worth, of being needed, and of being meaningful.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; animal-assisted therapy; caring; life world; person-centredness; phenomenological hermeneutics.