Dogs help cou­ples stay to­gether af­ter de­men­tia

Evening Times - - NEWS - By CARO­LINE WIL­SON

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 bark@de­men­ti­adog.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

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