Caring for a parent with dementia poses certain challenges. There is growing interest in using support dogs to help with dementia like Alzheimer’s. Could it be another way to help care for your mom or dad?
Dementia support dogs are trained similarly to dogs that support people who are on the spectrum. The dogs help with comfort. They interrupt behaviors like meltdowns and hitting. They can also help seek or bring someone who wanders away to safety.
If your mom or dad has Alzheimer’s, a care plan that pairs your care, support of an Alzheimer’s assistance dog, and caregivers is important for your parent’s safety and your well-being.
One thing that every family caregiver finds is that Alzheimer’s affects people differently. You might have a friend who’s dad is sweet and just likes to sit and hold hands and watch movies together. Your mom yells, pushes you away, storms off, hits, and throws tantrums that you’re not used to.
You may find your mom has great days and bad days. One day she knows who you are, but the next you’re a stranger and she wants you to leave. These changes are helpful as the assistance dog can sit with her to calm her mood swings.
Some people with Alzheimer’s tend to wander. Others don’t. If your mom does, the dog can go with her and help lead her back home or to a safe place. She gains a little more independence over being locked down somewhere that makes her feel trapped and anxious. You have peace of mind that there is a dog with her for comfort and assistance.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, your mom won’t need too much help. As the disease progresses, she will. It’s best to set her up with caregivers as early as possible so that she has time to get to know them. If they’re familiar to her, she’s less likely to become anxious later on.
It also gives caregivers a chance to get to know her before her memories start slipping. Caregivers will have a good feel for what she likes and dislikes. They’ll know more about the family and be able to recall information from the past that can help draw your mom out of a moment of agitation.
Make arrangements for caregivers by calling a home care agency. Answer the questions, talk more about your mom’s needs, and arrange care so that your mom is supported and you have time for breaks.