As I was clicking through the BBC website on my train ride into work this morning, a video link at the bottom of the page about dementia dogs caught my eye. Having visited a number of Creative Support’s dementia care services and, like many others, witnessed family members live with dementia, I was keen to see what this was all about.
Dementia dogs is a similar scheme to guide dogs for the blind. Puppies are bred and trained from an early age to provide assistance to those in the early stages of dementia. The dogs are taught how to respond to alarms, retrieve medical pouches, nudge their owners to read reminders and encourage them to get out of bed in the morning. The scheme is currently being trialled in Scotland where a Golden Retriever called Oscar and a Labrador called Kaspa have been working with their owners for four moths following 18 months of training. It is the first project of its kind in the World.
The video posted follows Kaspa and Oscar’s training and subsequent placements with their new owners. It is clear to see that both owners are delighted to have the dogs in their lives. Viewers can witness the dogs completing the aforementioned tasks within their new settings and it is incredible to see. One of the dogs, for example, has been trained to nudge and guide his owner to the oven when an alarm in the kitchen sounds. This can be used when food is ready to be removed from or put into the oven. The owner’s wife in this instance will often leave notes by the alarm to remind him of the required tasks.
The early stages of dementia can be incredibly uncertain and frightening for all involved. For those who enjoy the company of animals, this could be an invaluable service which would relieve an element of pressure on both the cared for and carers as well as provide love and support to the household during difficult times. I wait with eager anticipation to hear how this scheme develops.