UK's first dementia dog gives couple 'their lives back’

Pilot scheme in Scotland sees specially-trained pet partners
helping care for the elderly

Man’s best friend has been lending a helping paw since time immemorial, and most people will be aware of the roles they play as guide dogs, sniffer dogs, even search and rescue dogs.

But have you ever head of a dementia dog?

An elderly couple in Scotland said they have been given their lives back after they were partnered up with two-year-old golden Labrador Kaspa – who is one of the first dogs in the UK to receive special training to assist dementia-sufferers.

Kaspa’s skills include fetching medicines when a reminder alarm goes off, waking up his owners at the right time and carrying items between them.

Mr Will, 79, was diagnosed with vascular dementia three years ago, and his wife Mrs Will, 66, took on the role of carer.

And she explained how challenging her husband’s condition became, saying: “We've been married 48 years but often I've sat and looked at him and thought, 'I don't know who this person is'.”

That all changed with the arrival of Kaspa. As well as helping out around the house with his practical training, the family pet has relieved a great deal of stress for the couple and encouraged them to get out and about.

Mrs Will said: “Kaspa has totally given us our lives back. Ken is much happier because he's got the dog and we can go out now. We can go shopping together, we can even go on holidays.

“We are a lot more relaxed since the dog came because if Ken gets in a mood and angry, the dog comes and nudges him and he forgets his problems. I've got a good bit of him back again.”

The team behind the project said that carers find they spend less time giving reassurance to their partner because the dog provides a ”calming“ new focus.

Speaking about the first time the couple went shopping with Kaspa, Mr Will said: ”I was tensed up and after two or three steps he just brushed against me and looked up as if to say, 'am I doing OK?' and the stress just went.“

Kaspa was joined in his training by Oscar, a two-year-old golden retriever who now helps another Arbroath couple, Frank and Maureen Benham.

Mrs Benham, 69, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and her husband said: "Maureen and I can't imagine going back to what it was like before we got Oscar.“

The Dementia Dog project was originally a brainwave from a group of product design students at the Glasgow School of Art. The programme’s director Gordon Hush said they had exhibited “the ability to re-design experiences”, above and beyond “the traditional domain of material manufacture”.

The project got started with the help of Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland, as well as with funding from the Scottish Government and UK Design Council. It is expected to be rolled out further, and another two dogs have already begun their training.

Helen McCain, training director at Dogs for the Disabled, said: ”Oscar and Kaspa have settled in well to their new homes and are already making an impact on the lives of their new partners.

“This new project has provided us with an opportunity to bring together our skills and experience to help with a different kind of challenge. We really believe that the dementia assistance dog could make a significant contribution to the Government's national dementia strategy.”

Alzheimer Scotland called it a “ground-breaking project”, and Logan Anderson from Guide Dogs Scotland said: “The Dementia Dog pilot has shown, not just how the dogs have provided practical benefits to those living with Alzheimer's, but also the mood-enhancing and emotional benefits as well.“

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions