dementia-assistance-dogThis summer, the news has been full of wonderful dementia advocacy stories from across the Atlantic. Support and awareness are growing across Europe, and innovative ideas just keep coming. Students from the Glasgow School of Art in Glasgow, Scotland, are responsible for a brilliant new project that has the potential to enrich the lives of dementia sufferers worldwide.

Trained to Assist

A golden retriever and Labrador retriever are demonstrating that the canine crowd can increase quality of life for both patients and their caregivers. More than just pets, Oscar and Kaspa are trained dementia dogs, and their owners have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ve made an enormously positive impact.

With help from Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled, and Guide Dogs Scotland, both dogs received 18 months of training and have been with their families for about four months. They’ve been taught to nudge owners to read reminder notes, wake them in the morning, and fetch medicine pouches when prompted by an alarm. In addition, they can help with exercise and other owner-identified reminders.

The Future of Caring for Early Stage Dementia?

Caregivers Glenys Will and Frank Benham credit the dogs for their spouses being happier and more relaxed, as well as enabling them to get out and about with less worry. Benham says that he’s seen his wife Maureen’s confidence rise with Oscar by her side, often serving as a conversation-starter in social situations. Likewise, Will notes that Kaspa has a knack for sensing when her husband is becoming agitated and can redirect him before things deteriorate any further.

According to the Dementia Dog website, the program’s overarching goals include helping dementia patients maintain their routines, allowing them to remain active both at home and outside the home, and providing a constant companion who serves as a reassuring anchor in stressful or unfamiliar situations. The organization is also exploring intervention dogs to work with patients’ support teams as well as a facility dog program to improve the physical and emotional well being of those living in care facilities.

Oscar and Kaspa have been such success stories that two more dogs are currently being trained. What are your thoughts on this concept? Do you think it has the potential to change the way we care for people in the early stages of dementia?


  1. Anne Walker

    Wonderful idea! I have often heard of someone in early stages like this walking away from their home and getting lost, a well trained companion dog would be sure to bring them back to their home safely! That would be wonderful!

  2. John

    I think the idea is great. In fact, we entertained the idea of a miniature Schnauzer for my wife as a companion. She was excited about it, then decided that she really didn’t want the responsibility of caring for an animal, which would have added more stress to her daily routine. She was diagnosed a little over two years ago at age 62, and with the help of a great neurologist and his suggested medications, is still able to maintain a daily routine at home by herself while I continue to work. I think each patient’s ability to handle a “care dog” will be different. I do, however, think the concept is viable for those able to handle it.

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