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 can rob people of their memory, but it can also be frightening for those who suffer from it. Over time, 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 owning a dog seemed unbelievable. 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 may be surprised at the positive influence a dog can have on their life.
The mental health benefits of owning a dog
Dementia can be scary and confusing for the person going through it. Managing mental health is important to promote a better quality of life, especially when it comes to staying calm, reducing stress, and dealing with worries that can lead to illness. It’s well known that dogs can benefit your mental health in a variety of ways, including
- Reduce stress levels
- Raise the energy
- Calm anxiety
- Help with depression
It is easy for people with dementia to feel alone, and a dog can also provide companionship to alleviate loneliness.
Dementia episodes can be triggered by a variety of things, but lack of routine and lack of stimulation are two common causes. 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 nurturing activities.
Since dogs need daily exercise, they 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 in the local park can make a big difference in the severity of symptoms. In addition, being outside in nature is great for the mental health of dementia patients and is a natural way to reduce stress. If you are a chronic caregiver, you will also benefit from this stress reliever!
A dog keeper
It is common 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 an 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 ease their restlessness and anxiety, improve their short-term memory. and communication skills, and retain them. more physically active.
If you take it a step further and adopt a service dog or a dog specifically trained to treat dementia, they can help you with things like
- Strength and balance
- Behavioral change
It is best to have a dog breed that is relatively low maintenance and will not add additional stress to your loved one or patient’s life. Finding the right little dog to be a companion is a great way to have a little extra care at home, so he’s never alone, even if you can’t be there.
If someone is in the early stages of dementia, now is the best time to adopt a dog. They can socialize them, train them, and get them used to the home so they continue to feel comfortable and familiar with their surroundings as the illness progresses. Getting a dog sooner rather than later can help slow this progression and make your patient calmer and less stressed down the road.
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 the puppy can reach
- Keep things 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 can lessen the impact of this loneliness and help your patient feel less alone. As a caregiver, a dog can also improve your mental health and prevent you from feeling burned out.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, consider discussing the benefits of dog companionship with them. The dog will provide stability, routine and comfort that will make this difficult period of life easier.