According to the World Health Organization, approximately 55 million people worldwide suffer from the effects of dementia. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, this number is expected to increase.
Dementia is a debilitating disease that robs people of their memory, but it can also be terrifying for those who suffer from it. Eventually, the disease can cause people to feel lost and alone, even when they are in familiar surroundings and with people they know.
Although there is currently no cure for dementia, there are ways to alleviate the difficulties that often accompany it, including buying a dog.
At first, the idea of someone with dementia having a dog may seem implausible. But dogs can help in many ways, providing companionship and care when someone needs it most. If you are a caregiver or have a loved one with dementia, you might be surprised at the positive influence a dog can have on their life.
The mental health benefits of having a dog
Dementia can be frightening and confusing for the person going through it. Managing mental health is crucial to promoting a better quality of life, especially when it comes to staying calm, reducing stress, and dealing with the anxious thoughts that illness can trigger. It’s well known that dogs can benefit your mental health in a variety of ways, including
- Reduce stress levels
- Boost energy
- Calm anxiety
- Help with depression
It’s easy for people with dementia to feel lonely, and a dog can also provide companionship to ease that loneliness.
Dementia episodes can be triggered by different things, but a lack of routine and no stimulation are two common culprits. A dog can provide both to a person with dementia. Dogs thrive on routine and allow a person with dementia to stimulate their mind through daily care and enriching activities.
Because dogs need daily exercise, they will also encourage you to stay active. According to the Alzheimer Society, regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia and slow the progression of the disease in someone who already has it. Something as simple as walking a dog every day or spending time at the local park can make a big difference in the severity of symptoms. Additionally, being outdoors in nature is wonderful for the mental health of dementia patients and is a natural way to reduce stress. If you are a constant caregiver, you will also benefit from this stress relief!
A canine caregiver
It is not uncommon for people with dementia or other memory problems to need help throughout the day.
Although a dog does not replace a human caregiver or nurse, it can serve as an “extra” caregiver throughout the day when a little help is needed, or just to keep a watchful eye on its owner. Canine therapy is becoming an increasingly popular method for people with dementia, but simply having a dog to “look after” the person you are caring for can help increase their restlessness and restlessness, improve their short-term memory and communication skills, and keep them more physically active.
If you take it a step further and adopt a service dog or a dog that has been trained to treat dementia specifically, they can help you with things like
- Stability and balance
- Behavior redirection
It is best to have a breed of dog that is relatively low maintenance and will not cause additional stress in the life of your loved one or patient. Finding the right little dog to be a companion is a great way to have a little extra care around the house, so he’s never really alone, even when you can’t be there.
If someone is in the early stages of dementia, now is the perfect time to adopt a dog. They can bond with them, train them, and get them used to the home so they can continue to feel comfortable and familiar with their surroundings as the disease progresses. Getting a dog sooner rather than later can even help slow this progression and keep your patient calmer and less stressed along the way.
Whether they’ve had a dog before or not, preparing their home for a four-legged friend will make the new transition easier for everyone involved, including you. Some preparation ideas to keep in mind
- Remove hanging objects that a puppy could reach
- Keep objects off the ground
- Securing harmful substances/drugs
- Invest in a secure fence
- Install dog gates or invest in a crate
Dementia can be a lonely and confusing disease. Having a dog at home will reduce the impact of this loneliness and help your patient feel less isolated. As a caregiver, a dog can also improve your mental health and keep you from feeling burnt out.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, consider discussing the benefits of canine companionship with them. A dog will provide stability, routine and comfort that will make this difficult stage of life easier.