Service dogs for Alzheimer’s patients make life safer.
We know that memory loss, progressive inability to function, and increasing disorientation are the frustrating and devastating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Because it is frightening for caregivers to let someone with Alzheimer’s out of their sight even briefly, the world of the person with Alzheimer’s becomes steadily smaller. This often leads to a lack of independence and depression for the Alzheimer patient. They may become increasingly dependent on others for assistance with basic tasks. It is also common for them to experience feelings of isolation, frustration, anger and helplessness.
Now there is help and hope for Alzheimer’s patients who want to live a more normal, more independent life. In the beginning and middle stages of the disease, people who have adequate support and appropriate assistance can still lead a functional and somewhat independent life.
Service dogs have long been used as guide dogs for the blind, and dogs are being used for many other types of assistance now as well. Dogs thrive on predictability and routine, and this is what much of the training for the Alzheimer’s assistance dogs is based upon. They are trained to help guide their person through the day. The dogs are trained to respond to the sound of a timer, which signals them to bring the person’s medicine, or another which prompts the dog to take the person to a cupboard with food. The dogs are also trained to respond to emergency situations. They learn to trigger an alarm in the house if their person should fall and not get up, or if they hear a choking sound.
Another important task of these service dogs is to bring his/her person home when he gets the “Home” command. If, for any reason the person is unable to follow the dog home, the dog is trained to stay with the person and call attention to the situation by barking. The dog’s collar is also equipped with a GPS device, so a caregiver can locate the person. Also, the device makes a tone that the dog recognizes as an alternate command to lead his person home, if his person forgets to give the command.
These dogs also provide companionship and comfort for their owners. They become an anchor to reality for people with Alzheimer’s by helping to maintain meaningful daily routines, and a better quality of life.
Dyer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center also focuses on quality of life issues as you can see in this article: Tops among nursing homes in Dyer.