Dementia dogs start work

First dementia dogs start work with owners

Students at Glasgow School of Art had the speculation to coach guide dogs to assist those with dementia

The first ever “dementia dogs” were working with their new owners.

The dogs was trained to aid those with early-stage dementia and may remind them to take their medicine and help them get out and about.

They were the brainchild of a gaggle of scholars from Glasgow School of Art.

The students suggested that dogs can be trained to assist those with dementia within the same way that guide dogs help people who find themselves blind.

With the support of Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland, two dogs underwent 18 months of educating.

Golden retriever Oscar and Labrador Kaspa was working with their new owners for four months, after 18 months of teaching.

They has been taught to reply to alarms and convey medicine pouches, to nudge their owners to read a reminder and to encourage them to get off the bed within the morning.

Ken and Glenys Will cannot believe how much difference Kaspa has made to their lives. Ken had become scared of being alone after being diagnosed with dementia three years ago.

“Kaspa is the correct thing that’s ever happened to us,” said Glenys. “We will buy groceries and the dog will sit with Ken. i do not should worry about him. We’re both more relaxed.”

While she is operating as a lollipop lady, Glenys can now leave reminders beside an alarm for Ken.

“If i would like the oven on, I’ll leave a note beside the alarm inside the kitchen. When the alarm goes off Kaspa nudges and nudges Ken until he’s glad to wake up. It’s just amazing.”

Making progress

Frank Benham has also noticed a major difference in his wife Maureen since Oscar was placed with them. Maureen had lost confidence because she found it hard to carry conversations. Now they may be out day after day.

“You meet people at streetlevel and it is a conversation starter, especially if Maureen knows them.”

Frank Benham says Maureen is more confident since Oscar was placed with them

“Before we had the dog, I did get frustrated,” added Frank, “however the dog acts as a buffer between you. If it really works out and finally, down the road, it will likely be an ordinary thing for folk with Alzheimer’s or dementia to have a dog. i feel will probably be a superior achievement.”

The idea came from an unusual source, students at Glasgow’s School of Art. They were asked to return up with products to aid individuals with dementia.

One of them was Luke McKinney. “We thought, why can’t we train dogs to assist individuals with dementia within the same way as we train dogs to aid those who can’t see?”, he said.

“We presented the belief to Alzheimer Scotland and likewise some service users, and the feedback we got was instantly huge.”

The way ahead

Alzheimer Scotland worked with Banbury-based Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland to spot suitable couples and dogs, with some extra funding from the Design Council and the Scottish government.

The first two dogs have proved so successful that two more are already undergoing training and the charities involved say dementia dogs is usually a significant new way of helping those with early-stage dementia.

“Supporting those with dementia and their families to live well with the illness requires innovative and imaginative approaches,” said Joyce Gray, deputy director of development at Alzheimer Scotland.

“Dementia Dog has had a really wonderful impact at the families involved.”