Dementia Awareness Week: Aquarium Therapy

14 May – 20 May 2017 marks Dementia Awareness week. This is a topic we feel is appropriate to bring to the attention of our customers and followers. With several studies showing evidence of the positive effects of ‘aquarium therapy’, especially with patients suffering with dementia, we thought it would a thought-provoking and beneficial share.

Extensive research over the years has discovered associations between having pet fish in aquariums and reduced levels of stress and anxiety. ‘Aquarium therapy’, a coined term for this connection, has been reported to have a positive impact on people with certain mental/emotional conditions, as well as developmental disorders like autism. With so many connections to people of all ages experiencing the positive benefits of fish tanks, it was fascinating to find out that there were also connections between aquariums and neurological illness like dementia.

A classic example is the 1999 study done by researchers at Purdue University. It was found that placing fish tanks in dementia units of nursing homes has links to aiding in reducing disruptive behaviour and even improving the eating habits of those suffering with the disease. Over 16 weeks, 62 individuals were observed and results revealed an overall 21% increase in food intake and attentiveness up to 30 minutes – which can be considered quite a long while for certain patients diagnosed with Dementia. So why do researchers believe fish tanks are having such an effect? The bright colours and movement of the fish, plus the rhythmic hum of the aquarium, provide sensory stimulation to patients that they may not have received before. It is also theorised that being around water leads people’s mind to being in a calmer, almost meditative, state. This being said, it is recommended that assistance is provided to individuals with dementia who wish to keep a fish tank. Due to the nature of this condition, it is safer and more helpful to the patient and the animals that support is available.

According to statistics published by Alzheimer’s Society, there are approximately 850,000 patients diagnosed with dementia in the UK with numbers estimated to rise drastically over the next 20+ years. Dementia is the name given to a set of symptoms that includes difficulty thinking, remembering, problem-solving and even language. It occurs when diseases such as Alzheimer’s damages areas of the brain. People will experience dementia differently depending on which part of their brain becomes impaired. There is no cure for this illness, but for those affected; it is valuable to know any measures that can help ease some of the negative symptoms that accompany the diagnosis. In the future we hope to see further research to support this finding about the positive effects of fish tanks on dementia patients, as well as research into the preventative measures (or even cure) of this neurological condition.