New Program Provides Service Dogs To Dementia Sufferers
October 25, 2015: A world-first program is seeing assistance dogs trained to help dementia patients remain in their own homes, for longer.
Dementia sufferers may be able to live at home longer, with service dogs working to open and close doors, fetch items, and provide key prompts to remind sufferers to take medication.
Run by Assistance Dogs Australia, the new program is the largest of its kind in the world.
Maureen Purcell, whose 73-year-old husband John was diagnosed with dementia seven years ago, is assisted by two dogs, Molly and Maisie.
“They break the barrier. And they're the catalysts for that communication,” Mrs Purcell told 9NEWS.
Assistance Dogs Australia CEO Richard Lord said the dogs provided important company to dementia sufferers.
“The other task they do is physical and mental anchoring, and that's where the couple can go out, the person with dementia can sit at the cafe with their dog looking after them, knowing the dog's going to keep them there while the partner goes next door and does the banking or the shopping,” he said.
Two newly trained dogs have already found homes in Victoria, and early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
There are still dogs available along the east coast, however one of the requirements of the program is that dementia sufferers must live with a carer.
While the expense of raising and training individual dogs is steep, coming in at $27,000 per pooch, the Purcells and others like them can rest easy – the federal government is footing the bill.
"All the costs - vet bills, food for the dog and those kind of things are met as part of the program, because what we want to learn is how to support dogs in the community, to keep people at home for longer,” Dogs4Dementia spokesperson, associate professor Colm Cunningham said.
For more information head to the Dogs 4 Dementia website.
© ninemsn 2015