Dementia Dog, a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and UK-wide charity Dogs for Good, uses specially trained dogs to help people with dementia and their carers.
When the country went into lockdown the project had to find new ways to work with their clients to help them stay connected and reduce social isolation. They came up with an array of fantastic ideas including virtual therapy walks, online Doggy Bingo and physiotherapy sessions.
Virtual Dog Bingo sessions take place through video calls with existing Alzheimer Scotland dementia support groups in various locations across Scotland, including the Western Isles.
So far they have delivered 70 group sessions and they’ve reached many more people online in a wider geographical area than they’d usually be able to.
To date the dogs have been Billy (four year old black Lab x Retriever) with Carla and Georgie (a four year old Golden Retriever) with Julia Winters who is based in Bristol but delivers Doggy Bingo sessions in Scotland and they are both trained Dementia Community Dogs.
In the new year they will be training a pool of Dementia Dog volunteers with their own trained pet dogs to help deliver virtual dog bingo sessions to help then to meet rising demand.
Donna Paterson, Dementia Advisor at Alzheimer Scotland, said: “The feedback for the online bingo has been incredibly positive, participants can’t wait for the next session, they want to know when it is and they love the fact that it’s the dog that picks the bingo balls.
“They’re quite a competitive bunch and they’re really enjoying the banter online – it’s been a highlight for them and us and a real boost of positivity in the day.”
Dementia Dog also offers virtual dog walks which connect a dog handler and their dog with the person with dementia and their carer using a secure video link. People just need a smartphone or a tablet to take part.
Carla and her dog Billy join clients for virtual walks via a video link.
Carla explains: “The walks are super fun and designed to help restore some routine into people’s daily lives and keep them motivated to exercise. Normally we’d work face to face with a person living with a diagnosis of dementia to promote social development goals such as building confidence or self-reliance.”