Elderly patients who are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) are at risk for psychosocial stress that negatively affects mental and physical health. Managing psychosocial stress in the ICU requires an innovative approach with low-risk and cost-effective interventions. Limited empirical evidence suggests the potential efficacy of a brief therapy dog visit (TDV) in improving psychosocial stress and biological responses to psychosocial stress in ICU patients. Due to the novelty of testing TDV in an ICU setting, a pilot and feasibility study is needed to inform, justify and improve rigor of a future randomized control trial (RCT).
To assess the preliminary efficacy of a 10-minute TDV in reducing biobehavioral stress responses including anxiety, salivary cortisol, interleukin-1ß, and C-reactive protein in elderly ICU patients, obtain initial estimates in outcomes for sample size calculations for a larger trial, and assess the rates of consent, completion of psychosocial data and saliva collection, and the best way to facilitate the TDV.