Therapy animals used in Dementia Programmes

Many very simple but very effective activities can be used for a Dementia patient. One of the most popular methods that has been proven as extremely effective, is the use of therapy dogs.

As a population worldwide we are getting older.  By getting older, it means that more people are affected by certain illnesses and diseases.  Dementia is one of them and according to the World Health Organisation over 50 million people worldwide suffer from Dementia and the numbers are growing every year by approximately 10 million.  This in itself is enough reason for us to better educate ourselves about this disease.  Many very simple but very effective activities can be used for the Dementia patient, let us explore them.

One of the most popular methods that has been proven as extremely effective, is the use of therapy dogs for Dementia patients.  Most people like dogs, many people have fond memories of dogs they grew up with, many have dogs as pets, and many would love to have a dog but cannot keep them where they live.  All in all, dogs are magic!  They are somehow always happy to see you, they are very loyal, they love humans unconditionally, and they are usually soft and cuddly. 

Introducing therapy dogs to a Dementia Care Unit can have many people lift an eyebrow, because of hygiene concerns.  Rest assured that trained therapy dogs are groomed and trained to be the least of your hygiene problems in a Care Unit.  For many people, just seeing a cute dog and being able to touch it is fantastic and extremely satisfying, without necessarily being able to explain why.  That is what has been researched and found to be what makes the use of therapy dogs so effective around Dementia patients.

Some of the effects of Dementia include anxiety, irritability, depression, restlessness, and loneliness.  The mere presence of a dog has been found to reduce these effects and their calm and relaxing nature calm Dementia patients down.  Therapy dogs are also trained to be friendly and not to be threatening and can encourage Dementia patients to be more interactive as they pet the dog, which is usually something they may struggle with around other adults.

According to www.brightfocus.org behavioural improvement, improved nutritional intake and less anxiety are but some of the positives that therapy pets have brought to the table where they are used.  For Dementia patients in a Care Centre, visits by therapy animals should be considered as the effect will be visible.  For people looking after loved ones with Dementia at home, introducing a pet is a great idea to relieve the Dementia patient of some of the effects of this disease.

Seeing that it is believed that the 50million + people worldwide living with Dementia can triple by 2050, this is a disease that we should definitely educate ourselves about and also the effective and simple activities we can engage in to help those living with Dementia.

Medwell SA – The Home Health Care Specialists offer various services and have developed the Medwell SA Dementia Programme that can be implemented in a Dementia Care Unit or at home.  For more information visit www.medwell.co.za

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