Monday, September 2, 2013

DOGS FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA

It's Labor Day, which is when I like to write about jobs that dogs do.  And today I am going to tell you about a type of service dog that is specially trained to help someone who has Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia.





A recent study showed that a diagnosis of Alzheimer's is the second-most feared diagnosis a person can get, after a cancer diagnosis.  People with Alzheimer's have problems with their brains that cause them to forget important things such as who they are and where they are and who their loved ones are and how to do much of anything.  Also, they may feel depressed, anxious, irritable, restless, and lonely.  They can't relate to other people anymore, so they become socially isolated.












But some dogs are now being trained who can help these Alzheimer's patients.  The dogs make the people feel less anxious, and they also help them keep doing some normal things such as going for walks, which can improve health and slow the disease.  Patients feel more connected to family and friends, and the dogs keep them from wandering off and getting lost or from hurting themselves in other ways.

One place that trains dogs for Alzheimer's patients is called DogWish.  The trainers use some of the patient's clothing when training the dog so that the dog is familiar with the person's scent and already knows a lot about him or her before they even meet.  Dementia service dogs are taught to be "passive protective," which means that they do not work by taking commands.  Instead they learn to understand what behavior is needed to protect their owner.  They can keep a person from leaving the house or remind him if the stove burner is left on.  They can even tell the person she forgot to take her medicine.  And if there is an emergency during the night, the dog can alert other family members.

As I have told you before, dogs have a super-excellent sense of smell.  This means they can be taught to detect abnormal nerve activity such as seizures, strokes, low blood sugar, panic attacks, and anxiety disorders.  Then they can let people know that something bad is about to happen in their bodies.  Also, dogs can feel the electro-magnetic energy in their human's brain and know if there is something wrong with it.  Dogs are up to 100 times as sensitive to electro-magnetic and electro-centric energies as people are.  At least that's what the DogWish site says, and I totally believe this is true.

It's not cheap to get a dementia service dog, but this is because the training is involved and expensive.  One price I saw was $7,000, and that was from several years ago.    But if you had to put a family member in a care facility, you would spend that much in a few months' time.  So having a service dog means you can keep the Alzheimer's patient at home longer and not have to worry as much, because the dog would be trained to keep the person safe and be a good companion.

So anyway, this shows once again that the special talents and abilities of dogs make them really good at doing certain jobs.  And that is something we should celebrate on Labor Day and every day!


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