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Dogs Are Helping Dementia Sufferers

We’ve long known about the benefits that pets, but especially therapy dogs, can bring to us.

Earlier this year this notion was extended to support dementia sufferers around Australia by Dogs 4 Dementia.

The program, which matches assistance dogs with people who have dementia and are living with a carer in their home, aims to enable people with dementia to stay at home for longer and avoid early entry into residential or acute aged care, program coordinator Marie Alford told the ABC.

“The dogs are specially trained, they’re matched to the person and they learn tasks such as medication reminders, hydration reminders,” she said.

“But one of the most important things that they provide is a social and emotional anchor for the person living with dementia, so that really gives them companionship, a relationship and a sense of confidence and comfort that they might be lacking.”

Dogs 4 Dementia is a partnership between HammondCare’s Dementia Centre and Assistance Dogs Australia, funded by the Federal Government.

It was initially introduced in New South Wales and Victoria and has since expanded to Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland.

Ms Alford said the program is about being proactive and “future-proofing”.


“… So by the time you need help with hydration and medication alerts the dog has already become really acclimatised, and you’ve already got a really good relationship, and so those tasks become a lot easier and much more familiar for the person with dementia.”

The benefits also extend to people in carer roles.

“The research we’ve seen come out of Alzheimer’s Scotland in Edinburgh where they’ve trialled this project demonstrated a massive impact, not just for the person with dementia but for the carers through improved quality of the relationship,” Ms Alford said.

“Because quite often for carers when they take on that role they lose the other role in their life, be it husband or wife or daughter or son or even friend.

“This actually puts another person in the relationship, a bit of a focus away from that.”

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Alana Lowes

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