Dementia Action / Awareness Week takes place between the 20th and the 26th May this year. The commendable goal of Dementia Action Week is to encourage people to take some kind of action to improve the lives of those affected by dementia, ultimately working to create a dementia-friendly UK where those with the disease do not feel excluded.
Facts and Figures
There are around 850,000 people in the UK who are affected by dementia. It is, however, something that does not just affect the elderly – it has been calculated that some 40,000 people under the age of 65 suffer from a condition called early-onset dementia. It is believed that by 2050 the number of people who have dementia in the UK will total 2 million.
While it is important to raise awareness of issues surrounding dementia, Dementia Action / Awareness Week has been organised to highlight that awareness on its own is not enough – more action needs to be taken to create the change in communities that people with dementia want and need.
During the week, everyone is asked to commit to taking actions – both small and large – to help make everyday life better for sufferers of dementia. A range of fundraising events also takes place to bring in money for those affected and also to go towards looking for possible cures.
Dogs and Dementia
Dogs bring great benefits to all of us – fun, companionship and love. For someone who is suffering with dementia, these non-critical creatures make excellent companions. It has been shown that their very presence can reduce the side-effects of dementia: loneliness, anxiety, agitation, depression and irritability, not to mention the fact that pets can help to stabilise blood pressure and reduce stress. The right dog can help a patient with dementia be more interactive and communicative, when they feel unable to do so with other humans.
In addition to the obvious health benefits mentioned above, here are some ways dog visits positively affect dementia patients:
1) They offer a safe, unthreatening topic of conversation. Everyone loves talking about dogs.
2) The presence of pets has been known to help with memory – especially those who have owned pets previously.
3) Animal visits encourage exercise and cause bursts of energy.
4) The visits can give those suffering with dementia something positive to look forward to.
Offering your Dog to a Dementia Sufferer
If you are considering taking your pet for a visit with a dementia sufferer, either in a home or someone that you know in the community, or indeed, a loved one, here are some things to consider to ensure it is a positive experience:
1) Consider your dog’s temperament and energy levels. Sometimes barking and jumping up may do more harm than good.
2) Think about the length of time carefully. Always stay tuned to the demeanour of the patient or loved one. If they begin to show signs of tiredness or agitation, it might be time to end the visit.
3) Manage your expectations. Remember that dementia patients are unpredictable when it comes to pets and the visit may not always be met with the same enthusiasm.
For further information about what is happening in your area during Dementia Awareness / Action Week, and how to get involved, visit: