We sat down with Senior Care Solutions to discuss the topic we will be discussing in this article is dogs as companions for elderly people.
This is just one of the many roles that a dog may fill for loved ones.
Having unconditional love from a pet may provide seniors who want to age in place with another being they can exchange attention and love with, especially when they live at home alone.
Pets can provide purpose to a life that not many other roles can fill after a senior has retired, or is having health or mobility issues and cannot meet with others as freely as they did in the past for socialization. If you are dealing with an elderly relative it is worth investigating long term care insurance.
Were You Aware That Dogs Can Help Seniors With Their Tasks As Well?
Service dogs are not only for individuals who have disabilities, like hearing or visual impairments, diabetes, seizure disorders, and mental illness, anymore as they were in the past.
Certified and specially trained dogs are making their way into homes with individuals who have dementia.
A service pet, which is usually a dog, is specially trained in order to perform specific tasks or do work for individuals.
They are able to alert a deaf individual to an emergency siren or ringing phone, guide a blind person through city streets, protect someone who is having a seizure or pull a wheelchair. More pets are being used for individuals who have autism as well as dementia now.
The animal is associated with the needs of the specific individual and is trained to meet the person’s special needs.
Some of The Things That a Trained Dog is Able To Do:
- Keep strangers away
- Wake the owner up
- Respond to smoke alarms
- Bring the owner an emergency phone
- Remind the owner to take medications
- Get medications
- Alert to sounds
- Pick up an item that was dropped
- Flip a light switch on
- Provide direction to a walking path that is safe
- Easy mobility through pulling a wheelchair
Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), services pets are allowed to be in public areas.
A majority of service animals are identified by wearing a best, tags, or badge but it is not required.
Owners can be asked if the pet is a service animal due to a disability and which tasks they have been trained to do.
However, a public location or business cannot demand proof for a disability to allow the animal access and cannot charge an owner for access.
A business does have the right to demand an animal to leaves the premises due to a threat or their behaviour.
A person who owns a service dog may deduct the costs of maintaining, medical expenses and training a service dog on their income taxes but not regular care, like food or grooming if the person has a qualifying disability.
Service Dogs and Dementia
Is there a new breed that can help individuals with dementia have a higher quality of life?
There might be one, at least when it comes to training and service.
Service dogs provide assistance, companionship, and comfort for individuals with dementia as well as their family caregivers.
Since dementia affects brain processes, like language, sequencing activities, object recognition, and memory, specially trained service dogs are able to help to fill the gaps through providing assistance.
Service dogs may provide both companionship and service assistance.
Dementia is considered to be a mental illness, and that means service dogs for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementia under the ADA will have complete access in public places.
Dogs who can fill the service dog role the best for individuals with dementia need to have a temperament that enables them to properly follow commands and be able to adjust to their owner’s mood changes and react appropriately.
Service Dog Roles for The Elderly with Dementia
Dogs who help individuals with dementia may be trained to:
Send an alarm if their own falls at home
Help improve socialization by being conversation starters for people that the owner meets
Help the owner stick with their routines and guide the person throughout the day
Provide a sense of calmness
Provide cognitive and tactile stimulation
Offer companionships and relief from loneliness and boredom
Balance and mobility support
Prevent the individual with dementia from wandering away from home alone
Assist with daily tasks, like giving reminders about eating, medications, dressing, and even waking up the person when necessary
Carry a GPS coordinator locator on their dog collar to help family members locate their loved one
Guide the owner home if they become lost and stay with the individual and bark to get help.
Is there a role that a service dog can play in your elderly loved one’s life?
Training A Dog to Meet a Senior’s Needs
A dog may be trained to help with the specific needs of your elderly loved one who has dementia. A dog is trained to the person’s scent that they are caring for. That is how a dog tracks the person if they wander away from home.
Dogs that are trained to assist individuals with dementia get led on a six-foot leash for walking in front of the individual who has dementia, instead of a harness that is used with other types of disabilities.
The cost to train a dog to provide dementia caregiving is not as expensive as what you would have to pay for one to two months of being in an assisted living facility. The investment can pay for itself if a dog can keep a loved one in their home safely for a longer period of time.
Dogs that are trained to provide service to individuals with dementia and as dementia caregivers are providing help with daily tasks, purposefulness in life, confidence, and companionship for individuals with dementia. They also can provide an anchor for the senior’s reality.
Research is underway in order to determine how a trained service dog might impact the progression of the person’s disease, and it might help to slow memory loss down.