Now I have long known about that great organisation “Guide Dogs for the Blind” and also dogs that hear for the deaf www.hearingdogs.org.uk, and I guess unsurprisingly man’s best friend is about to create another wonderful partnership the job of caring for people suffering with dementia.
Lovely Golden retrievers and Labradors are being trained to remind people to take their tablets/medication, raise an alarm in the event of an emergency, and help with undressing, and do odd jobs around the home.
All this great work is called the ‘Dementia Dog’ project and all the dogs are trained for example to respond to an alarm that goes off whenever a person is struggling with memory loss and needs to take their medication.
Additionally these great dogs will be trained to help people undress by gently and slowly pulling on gloves, socks and sleeves. As for the medication, the dog then simply clenches its mouth around the medicine that is stored in a bite-proof bag, and carries it to the sufferer. The dogs can also be taught to recognise a specific movement that their owner may make when they are in distress. The dog can then press an emergency button on a telephone or do what is the easiest for them to do and bark loudly to raise the alarm. Dogs will also learn to open drawers, cupboards, fridges, freezers, washing machines and turn light switches on and off.
The project experts say that the dogs can be trained to undertake any task that requires pulling such as if a short rope is attached to a cupboard door, the dog can pull the rope to open it. So when it comes to helping with undressing, the dogs can pull at the sleeve of a coat or even tug and pull off their socks.
So far I read that the project had been given £52,000 of Government funds, but was looking to raise more funds to launch a pilot scheme later in 2012. The scheme is being developed by voluntary organisation Alzheimer Scotland and it will be the first time that dogs have been used to assist those with dementia. Students at Glasgow School of Art came up with the idea after Alzheimer Scotland challenged the college to suggest ways to improve the lives of dementia sufferers.
The Dementia Dogs scheme has now gained the backing of charities Dogs For The Disabled and Guide Dogs, which already provide dogs with similar skills to help those with physical disabilities.
The project hopes that the initiative will allow many more of the 750,000 Brits who suffer from dementia to retain their independence for longer than currently. The dementia dogs will undergo a 6 month training programme.
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