Dementia is one of the most important health and care issues facing the world, according to NHS England.
As people live longer the syndrome has become a growing challenge, with an estimated 850,000 people in the UK suffering from it. There are many different causes of dementia and many different types – including the most common types, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
It mainly affects older people, and after the age of 65 the risk roughly doubles with every five years. But it is not confined to the elderly – it can also develop early. There are a number of ways to help people with dementia – and one of the more imaginative approaches is the use of assistance dogs.
Dementia Dog project run by charities
An innovative project called Dementia Dog is being run by the charities Alzheimer Scotland and Banbury-based Dogs for Good.The scheme helps people with dementia both in their own homes and in the community.
In cases where someone is in the early stages of the illness the project can provide trained dogs to move into the home and become part of the family. The canines are specifically matched to meet the needs of that particular family, and they can help to give support by “aiding and prompting daily routines for waking, eating, taking medication, exercise, socialisation and sleeping patterns.”
Dogs for Good describes itself as a “life-transforming charity” providing specially trained assistance dogs for people living with disability.
At this stage in the project dementia assistance dogs are only available in Scotland.But a pilot scheme in England is providing community dogs.
How can assistance dogs help?
Assistance dogs can help in a number of crucial ways. Dogs for Good says the animals can help bring happiness back into the home, reduce stress and anxiety, improve motivation, and reduce social isolation.
How can community dogs help?
The charity says community dogs work with people with dementia and their carers, helping them to lead full and active lives at home and in their local community.
Arrangements can be made for dementia dogs to visit people in the early to moderate stages of dementia. Monthly ‘Dog Day’ events are also organised to bring together people at all stages of dementia, with their carers, to enjoy interaction with trained pet dogs.
The benefits dementia dogs bring
Dementia dogs can help people affected by the syndrome in a multitude of ways. They can increase independence by helping people in the early stages of dementia to have an improved sense of security and confidence as they go about their lives outside the home.
They can help reduce isolation, providing companionship and comfort. Trained dogs can have an important psychological impact on people with dementia, as well as providing friendship and encouraging exercise. They can also be trained to help in practical ways, such as bringing medication or waking someone up.
Man’s best friend
The project, which began in pilot form in 2013, is still in its early stages – but it is showing promising results. With the prevalence of dementia set to increase among an ageing population perhaps dogs will show they really are man’s best friend.
If someone you know is living with dementia and needs extra support getting around their home, then having their own stairlift installed can be life changing. Halton Stairlifts will never recommend a stairlift to any customer if we feel that it is not a safe or suitable option for them, and we’re happy to provide a no-obligation quote to anyone curious about installing a stairlift. Speak to the team on 0800 644 7766 to find out whether a stairlift is the best solution for you.