Older person with a walking stick stroking a small terrier dog

Can dogs help those with Alzheimer’s? The short answer is: yes. But the practicalities can be more complex.

Certainly, as Dogs Monthly fans already know, interacting with a dog has many benefits for health and wellbeing, and it can be a particularly good source of comfort to those with Alzheimer’s, as the relationship is non-verbal. Having a dog in the home can also help reduce stress for other family members and carers.

A therapy dog visit to a residential setting helps people reminisce about dogs they may have known and loved in the past, and often brightens a room, bringing it alive with memories and laughter. Regular visits give residents something enjoyable to look forward to and provide a talking point – with each other, with visitors, and with the therapy dog and its owner.

Those who live in their own home may need some support to ensure they can continue caring for a pet. Some people opt for a ‘part-time’ option, bringing a family dog for regular visits a few hours a week, so they can enjoy all the benefits of dog ownership – but without the full care commitment.

The Alzheimer’s Society has a useful blog with advice on supporting pet ownership. The blog lists six points to consider before getting a pet for someone with dementia, including whether the person would benefit from semi-regular interactions with an animal, rather than full-time ownership, and whether a lifelike robotic cuddly toy would be preferable. There are certainly some very realistic replicas out there, which are perfect for petting without any doggie downsides – they don’t pick up fleas or ticks, roll in fox poo, chew your favourite shoes or cost a fortune at the vet’s!

Visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/can-caring-for-a-pet-help-a-person-with-dementia for more information about the six factors to consider, and for help and advice about all aspects of dealing with Alzheimer’s.

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