An estimated 850,000 people are diagnosed with some sort of dementia in the UK. There are some fantastic charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society who are working tirelessly to research, raise awareness, create medicines and come up with creative solutions to support the people affected. However, there is still a lot of work to do.
What do dementia dogs do?
A new initiative based in Dundee is The Dementia Dog Project. Carefully selected dogs are put through a two-year intensive training program, with each dog costing around £25,000 to train. The dogs are placed with families where one family member is in early stages of the illness. Therefore the dogs are trained to help with the specific needs of each family including aiding and prompting daily routine activities. Prompting can include taking medication and eating. Whilst aiding could be something like monitoring sleep patterns.
Due to the success of the programme another pioneering initiative, the Community Dog Programme has been created. The pilot scheme is being tested in Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Scotland. Dedicated community dogs and handlers work with healthcare professionals to help people with the illness to overcome challenges and achieve goals.
Can my dog join in?
Unfortunately not with this scheme. However, there are other charities such as Support Dogs who train dogs to work with people affected by a range of medical conditions such as autism assistance, seizure alerts and disability assistance. Unfortunately our dog Otis has a little way to go to achieve such high standards but maybe your dog has what it takes to support someone in the community.
How can our community get involved?
If you are local to Whitstable you may be interested in this Dementia Friends information session. It is taking place on the 10th March at the Horsebridge centre. Unfortunately there won’t be any dogs there, but it is a very worthy cause to be involved with.