Around 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia, and based on current dementia prevalence rates and the country’s ageing population, this number is projected to double by 2038.
Dementia costs the country more than cancer, heart disease and stroke put together, which is what prompted the Dementia Dog project to launch three years ago, using specially trained dogs to support and enable people to live well with dementia.
The project received £300,000 in funding from the Life Changes Trust, an independent charity set up with a Big Lottery Fund endowment of £50 million to improve the lives of two key groups in Scotland: people affected by dementia and care experienced young people.
The project started as a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled (now Dogs for Good), Guide Dogs UK and product design students from Glasgow School of Art, to bring fresh ideas to service design for people with Dementia.
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. An initial pilot in 2013 saw four dementia dogs matched with individuals living with their full-time carers during the early stage of their diagnosis.
Ken Will and Kaspa
Ken Will has dementia and lives with his wife Glenys in Angus. They had been married for 45 years when Ken received his diagnosis and the impact of the condition became increasingly challenging for both of them over time.
After hearing about the Dementia Dog pilot, they decided to get involved, and welcomed Kaspa into their home in 2013.
As a trained dog, Kaspa can offer practical assistance to someone with dementia and also reduce anxiety levels. This meant that Glenys can leave the house knowing that Ken would be safe, especially since Kaspa had been trained to respond to alarms that would remind Ken to carry out tasks, like taking his medication.
“Kaspa has given us our life back. He greets Ken in the morning, so Ken starts his day 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,” Glenys said.
“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. Every day we wake up knowing it’s going to be a good day thanks to Kaspa.”
This new funding will help Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good to broaden the project to help even more families who are living with dementia, including providing aftercare support to the existing assistance dog teams as well as place a further eight fully trained assistance dogs with those living with dementia and their carers.