Guide dogs to help people with dementia

Posted under Blog on July 31st, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Two specially trained dogs have become the first assistance dogs in the UK to help people with dementia. The two canines, Kaspa, a Golden Retriever, and Oscar, a Labrador, are part of a project to investigate how a dog might benefit those with early-stage dementia. Two more dogs are currently in training.

The idea for the Dementia Dog project came from students at Scotland’s Glasgow School of Art’s Product Design Department and then further developed by a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland. The dogs have been trained to provide practical assistance in reducing social isolation and anxiety levels and to respond to sound triggers in the home that prompt them to perform tasks such as fetching medicines or waking the patient up in the morning.

The dogs completed their training earlier this year and went to live with couples in Scotland. Kaspa was assigned to Ken, who was recently diagnosed with early stage dementia, and his wife Glenys.  Kaspa was a welcome addition to the home of the couple, who were dealing with the realities of living with dementia and encountering a variety of new challenges.

Kaspa has, says Glenys, given them their lives back. She movingly described the impact their ‘dementia dog’ has had on them: “Who would believe a dog came into our lives two weeks ago and turned our lives around. Every day we wake up knowing it’s going to be a good day thanks to Kaspa.”

“This new project has provided us all with an opportunity to bring together our skills and experience to help with a different kind of challenge,” said Helen McCain, Director of Training at Dogs for the Disabled. “We really believe that the dementia assistance dog could make a significant contribution to the Government’s National Dementia Strategy.”

As well as providing valuable help in the home, the dog is an important way for those living with dementia to continue with daily exercise and interacting with their local community. Helen McCain commented: “We did a test with an elderly person walking down the high street on his own. Then we gave him a dog on the lead and he did the exact same walk. That time people would come up to him and chatting or smiling and making eye contact. We hope we’d see this with clients with dementia too, keeping them engaged with the local community.” 

Tags: dementia dogs



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