Dogs help couples stay together after dementia
DOGS which are trained to assist people with dementia could help extend the time patients stay in their own home with loved ones, a Glasgow-devised pilot suggests.
The animals are trained to prompt dementia patients to take medication, wake them up and can even help remove clothing.
Alzheimer Scotland say a trial, involving eight dogs, which was devised by students from Glasgow School of Art, has shown promising results in the Forfar area. The charity is now training a further eight dogs which will be placed in areas including Kilmarnock area and elsewhere in the central belt.
Although the results have yet to be analysed, project leaders say early findings suggest the dogs could help extend the amount of time people with dementia stay in their own home by providing “an extra pair of hands’ for carers, coupled with significant emotional, social and physical benefits.
Fiona Corner, Project Manager of the Dementia Dogs Project, for Alzheimer Scotland, said: “There are assistance dogs for people with visual impairment, people with epilepsy and physical disabilities but there was no assistance dogs for people with dementia.
“A group of students from Glasgow School of Art were commissioned to inject fresh ideas into service design for people living with dementia.
“We’ve seen with one of the first couples on the pilot, it’s really extended the amount of time that person can stay at home. That person can stay with their family and have a really good quality of life.
“We are unable to say whether it has slowed the progression of dementia but the health professionals give the opinion that this person would certainly have been in care by now.
“The dogs help the carer cope better and build their resilience through the dementia journey.
“They help structure routine in the home, which typically deteriorates over time.
“For many of the couples, that person will be on medication. The carer is having to nag them about that so it creates quite a negative association with the carer.
“We train the dogs to fetch a medication pouch.
“The dogs are also trained to pull the duvet back with their mouth and gently put their paws on the bed to wake someone up.
“They can help remove items of clothing, when it’s time for a walk, they can go fetch hat and gloves, take gloves off, take jackets and jumpers off.”
Ken, who has vascular dementia and his wife Glenys received their dementia dog Kaspa in 2012.
Glenys said: “Kaspa has given us our life back. He greets Ken in the morning, so starts Ken’s day being happy.
“Kaspa has removed my fear that Ken had gone, life is so much better for both of us now.”
Fiona said: “The dog needs walking twice a day and we’ve developed a special harness with two leads. It actually provides a thing for the couple to enjoy again.
“There is also the emotional anchoring. If a couple goes to the supermarket, I can train the dog to sit with a person for a while, while the carer whizzes round and does the shopping.
“If that person is feeling anxious, the dog picks up the signals and rests its head on that person’s lap and makes eye contact.”
The scheme is jointly run by Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs For Good and funded by the Glasgow-based Life Changes Trust and will be analysed by Hammond Care’s Dementia Centre. To find out more, or to make adonation to the project, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Oscar delivering a medication pouch to his owner, left and right, Willow is soon to be placed with a couple in Dundee
Ken and Glenys with their dog Kaspa, who has become part of the family