Dementia can be a debilitating illness that severely affects seniors and their loved ones. However, a new treatment using trained dogs, much like seeing-eye dog programs for the blind, is being explored in the UK with promising results.
The pilot program was the brainchild of a group of students from Glasgow School of Art who were involved in a competition to create products that could be helpful to those suffering from dementia.
After suggesting that dogs could be trained to help people with dementia in the same way that guide dogs help people who are blind, the students received support from Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland. Two dogs underwent 18 months of training and the newly minted “dementia dogs” have already begun working with their new owners.
The dogs have been trained to help people with early-stage dementia and can remind them to take their medicine and help them get out and about. They have been taught to respond to alarms and bring medicine pouches, to nudge their owners to read a reminder and to encourage them to get out of bed in the morning.
The first two dogs have proved such a success that two more are already undergoing training and the charities involved say dementia dogs could be a significant new way of helping people with early-stage dementia.