A service providing assistance dogs to people with dementia, helping them lead more fulfilled, independent and stress-free lives.
A sense of routine can often disintegrate for people with dementia. Dogs can be trained to live to a consistent routine. Ultimately, each dog will be trained with the person with dementia and their carer so all three can operate as a team.
Joyce Gray Deputy Director – Development, Alzheimer Scotland
Peter Gorbing Chief Executive, Dogs for the Disabled
Helen McCain Director of Training and Development, Dogs for the Disabled
Jeni Lennox Innovation Designer and visiting tutor, Glasgow School of Art
Phoebe Batham Design student, BDes Product Design, Glasgow School of Art
The disruptions dementia causes can have a spiralling effect: forgetting to eat, drink or sleep can increase disorientation, medication can be forgotten and confusion can heighten anxiety about the outside world, increasing isolation. All of this puts a huge burden on carers too.
The solution and its benefits
The dogs will be taught to support existing patterns of waking, sleeping and eating for people with dementia. Through responding to sound alerts they can also help with regular hydration, medication and toilet use. In the early stages, reminders may not be necessary, but if they begin immediately it will mean the routine is established when the need arises. Dogs can also be trained to provide orientation outside the home.
The social and emotional benefits are potentially huge. Dogs are naturally loving, therapeutic presences and extensive anecdotal evidence suggests they can have a transformative effect on people with dementia’s alertness and mood. Outside the home, dogs can be great ice-breakers, initiating conversations in which memory need not be a factor. Just by being able to get out more, the person with dementia can widen his or her circle of support.
If the person does reach a point where he or she is rarely going out of the house, the dog provides much needed companionship.
The burden on the carer can also be hugely relieved, with immediate benefit both to him or her and to the quality of care. The dog can provide an anchor for the person with dementia while out with the carer, leaving the carer free to get on with tasks such as shopping.
Dogs for the Disabled in partnership with Guide Dogs will put five of their existing assistance dog puppies in a pilot programme. Alzheimer Scotland will identify couples where one partner has early stage dementia who could benefit.
The team are seeking £40k (to supplement £25k from the Scottish Executive) to start the assistance dog pilot.