When we get ready to take our dog out in the mornings, she stops in the hallway if she hasn’t heard us turn off the burglar alarm. I always praise her for reminding me and avoiding a call from the alarm service.
“I think she is a memory dog,” I told my husband.
“What has she reminded you of this time?” Harold asked.
“Well, I came in and forgot to shut the garage door. She just stood at the top of the steps and looked at me until I closed it.” I figure at our age, we need a good memory dog.
People have guide dogs, hearing dogs, autism service dogs, seizure response dogs, diabetic alert dogs, PTSD dogs, allergy detection dogs, and mobility assistance dogs.
I couldn’t help but consider how dogs could be used for persons with dementia. Some Alzheimer’s units have dogs and the residents can become quite attached to them. In fact, the scuffle that caused Jim to be kicked out of a nursing home was over the dog.
According to Psychology Today, in 2014 two groups—one in Scotland and one in Israel— trained dogs to assist a person with dementia. Dogs are on a six-foot leash so they can lead their owner in an appropriate direction. The dogs understand the command “home” to keep a person from being lost.
To assist caregivers, the dog’s collar has a GPS navigational device that can be activated remotely. The dog is trained to recognize the tone as a command to return home. If a person leaves home without the dog, the dog can track by scent to find the lost person.
The dementia assist dogs are trained to recognize different tones to help a person “remember” daily tasks. Different tones will instruct the dog to bring medicine in a bite proof bag with a note, lead the person to a cabinet to remind them to eat, drink water, or other personal care. The dog also knows how to trip an alarm in case the person falls, chokes, or needs intervention.
In the United States, 4 Paws in Zenia, Ohio, trains Alzheimer’s Assistance dogs. Training an Alzheimer’s Assistance dog costs between $40,000 - $60,000. The family receives assistance with the cost of training. Their website plainly states that if a person cannot be left alone, they should not be left alone with the dog. The purpose of these dogs is to help the quality of life for the caregivers and their loved ones with dementia. In addition to the assistance dementia a trained dog can provide, he is also a companion and walking the dog provides exercise.
Jim had several favorite dogs over the years, but I think Bubba had to be his all time favorite. Although Bubba wasn’t a trained dementia dog, he was a faithful companion. Before he went into the nursing home, Jim walked Bubba and my dog Sherry almost every day.
Many of us have fur babies that become an integral part of our family. Our pets help combat loneliness, but specially trained dogs have the potential to be lifesavers.
Copyright © October 2018 by L.S. Fisher