Dementia Dog (Alzheimer Scotland)

Dementia Dog started its life as a Glasgow School of Art service design project commissioned by Alzheimer Scotland that secured the attention and funding of both the Scottish Executive and the Design Council through the Living Well with Dementia Challenge.

Award: £293,477
Timescale: 1 September 2016 – 31 August 2019

Project aims

The primary aim of this project is to place a further 8 assistance dogs to improve the quality of life and independence of an owner with dementia as well as build opportunities for the dogs to play a wider role in the community if appropriate. This will build on the existing model whereby there is a partner “carer” to support the person with dementia. Also, 

  • to continue to provide aftercare support to the existing assistance dog teams
  • to continue to document progress and understand the issues arising for the people supported as a way of better understanding how to develop the service 
  • to continue to support research and evaluation within every element of the project. This will include both the issues relating to the health and wellbeing of both the person with dementia and their carer and the economic benefits that could accrue from dogs working in these settings

Background

Dementia Dog started its life as a Glasgow School of Art service design project commissioned by Alzheimer Scotland that secured the attention and funding of both the Scottish Executive and the Design Council through the Living Well with Dementia Challenge.

It began as a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, The Glasgow School of Art, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs UK, bringing together the teams’ expertise in dementia care and provision of trained assistance dogs.

The original idea was to provide people in the early stages of dementia with a fully trained assistance dog.  Dogs would act as a companion and helper, and be trained to provide reminders for key daily tasks like taking medication.  Having a dog would also encourage owners to get out and about, increasing not only physical activity but also social interaction.   

Following the successful completion of the research stage and having secured additional funding, in April 2013 Dementia Dog embarked on its first small-scale pilot scheme, based at the Guide Dogs for the Blind training facility in Forfar, Angus.

A number of dogs were identified as potential candidates for the programme and four passed their initial training to progress to matching with families.

Matching is a crucial part of any assistance dog programme numerous attributes such as temperament (human and canine) size and walking speed are taken into consideration.

All four dogs were matched with families and three went on to live as fully qualified dementia assistance dogs with individuals with dementia and their carers. The families were supported by regular communications and visits from the Dogs for the Disabled team trainers and by Alzheimer Scotland local staff.

More Information

Dementia Dog is a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good.

The initial research phase, as outlined above, ran for two years from the qualification of the partnerships.

The results were very positive and this led to the funding award from Life Changes trust in August 2016. This will allow the assistance dog programme to expand, with a further 8 dogs.

The Dementia Dog Project builds services for people with dementia that brings dogs back into their lives or supports them to continue their relationship with dogs.

It aims to prove that dogs can help people with dementia maintain their waking, sleeping and eating routine, remind them to take medication, improve confidence, keep them active and engaged with their local community, as well as providing a constant companion who will reassure when facing new and unfamiliar situations.

This project is working in parallel to a similar project in Australia and there will be shared evaluation and learning across the two projects. 

The project was awarded ‘Most Innovative Partnership’ at Scotland’s Dementia Awards 2018.

Outcomes we'd like to see

Evidence suggests that human-animal interaction and pet ownership can potentially enhance the education, socialisation, health and well-being of people, particularly among older people.  Therefore outcomes we would like to see include:

  • increased independence and quality of life for the beneficiaries of a dementia dog
  • dogs provide companionship and routine which can contribute to increased confidence, security, sense of purpose, social interaction and ultimately independence
  • ownership of a dementia dog contributes towards the person with dementia living at home for longer
  • wider evaluation within every element of the project, including issues relating to the health and wellbeing of both the person with dementia and their carer and the economic benefits that could accrue from dogs working in these settings

Case study

Ken, Glenys & Kaspa


How has Kaspa helped since he arrived?

“Kaspa has given us our life back. He greets Ken in the morning, so starts Ken’s day being happy. I have noticed if Ken is agitated or unsettled Kaspa gives him a nudge so Ken talks to the dog or goes out in to the back garden and forgets what had bothered him.

Kaspa has removed my fear that Ken had gone, life is so much better for both of us now. Ken is happy and it has taken so much stress away from me as well. Who would believe a dog came into our lives two weeks ago and turned our lives around. Everyday we wake up knowing it’s going to be a good day thanks to Kaspa.”

What tasks that Kaspa does have you found most useful?

“Nudging Ken when he is agitated or angry, the alarm to get Ken up and read the message I’ve left him. I am also confident in the anchoring, Kaspa went to Ken’s club and he stayed for two hours and I am happy to leave them together in the supermarket while I do the shopping. It is a shame that you didn’t see Ken’s life before, even a week with him to see how our life has been changed with Kaspa.”

Additional Information

For more information on the first phase of dementia dogs, see their website: http://dementiadog.org/