Could assistance dogs help with dementia care?

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We believe that animals can play a big role in their owner’s health and quality of life as they get older, as it is said they can help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and are great for increasing social and physical activity.

This is why we are big advocates of people who need care being able to stay in the comfort of their own home and have all their belongings close by at all times, including beloved pets, which are often vital family members.

One of our service users, Barbara O’Sullivan has been able to remain living in her own home with her pet dog, Joe.

Barbara said: “I am extremely grateful to be able to have carers come to the house and provide the care that I need as it means I have been able to stay in my own home and keep Joe, who is a Jack Russell.”

We were thrilled to recently read about a pioneering project, currently in Scotland, that is helping to forge the way for dogs to help people with dementia, in a similar way to guide dogs helping the blind.

Alzheimer’s Scotland and Dogs for Good have joined forces to launch the Dementia Dog Project with the aim of placing dogs with couples, one of whom suffers from dementia and the other who is their carer.

Dementia dogs are trained to help with a variety of different tasks including fetching medication, waking the person up and being able to walk on a dual lead. The dogs can also be trained to meet any specific needs of the person with dementia and their other half/carer.

Like guide dogs, dementia assistance dogs can become a four-legged family member and companion. Having a dog means the person with dementia can take part in activities such as walking, giving them the opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air and interact with other people.

Three dementia dogs have already been trained and placed with couples, and by 2019 it is hoped that a further eight dogs will be helping people to lead a fuller and more active life.

While the project is still in its very early stages, the results are looking extremely positive.

We think dementia assistance dogs are a fantastic idea and hope the project filters to the rest of the UK. If there’s anything that can help a dementia sufferer remain in their own home and in their own community, then we are all for it.

For more info head to www.dementiadog.org.