Man’s Best Friend – Dementia Dogs
Dementia is one of the most feared conditions of aging. First of all not everyone gets it thankfully but it is scary particularly for carers and family when people do.
There’s a great story on agingcare.com (an American site) about a man who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at just 57. He got a new carer in the form of Sam, a German Shepherd dog. Sam isn’t just any German Shepherd though he’s been trained to help people suffering with this disease.
The guy, Rick Phelps says, “Sam’s done more for me than any medication could ever do. He’s taken me from a twelve [out of ten] on the anxiety and stress scale, down to a two or three.”
Before Sam arrived Rick couldn’t even go to the super market in case he got lost or not know how to get out of the store. But now Sam takes him and makes sure he’s on track.
Although starting in America we do have a similar service being introduced in the UK.
In fact in the UK, Alzheimers Scotland has designed a project called dementiadog.org to help people with dementia carry on with a daily living routine. Details about the project can be found on the Design Council website.
The dogs are trained to pay 95% attention to the person they are caring for and 5% to make sure the surroundings are safe. They assist in everyday tasks like finding where the car is parked when they’re out; reminding them when a cooker is left switched on or an appliance plugged in. They can also identify the handler’s house for them, when they are out walking together. There is just much less chance of the sufferer getting lost and confused or causing harm.
The organisation takes some of the new handler’s clothes. These help to accustom the dog to their smell before they are introduced, to ensure that they get on well together.
The training is expensive so the cost of one of these specially trained pooches is $7,000. Phelps was lucky as the cost of his dog was sponsored by an anonymous well wisher.
It could help hundreds of sufferers and their current human carers.
Well we’re not surprised that a dog has helped are we? Guide dogs for the blind have been trained to do much the same acting as the eyes of their handlers. Psychologists also believe that pets help to relieve stress too. It’s a win-win situation all round.