A groundbreaking project helping people in the north-east living with dementia has been trialling innovative new ways of working during the pandemic.
Dementia Dog, a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and UK-wide charity Dogs for Good, uses specially trained animals to help people with dementia and their carers.
When the country went into lockdown, organisers 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 ideas including virtual therapy walks, online Doggy Bingo and physiotherapy sessions.
The project also provides specially trained dementia assistance animals that can retrieve pouches holding medicine, gently wake up owners from naps, and help remove items of clothing.
Jeannette and Jon King live in Aberdeen and took a young Labrador into their home in 2018 called Lenny.
Jon, 77, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago and since Lenny joined the household he has had a positive impact on their lives.
Jeannette, 74, said: “Lenny has changed our lives. Getting Lenny is one of the best things I’ve done in my life.
“When you or your partner receives a diagnosis, it feels like your life is closing down, but Lenny has opened up a new world.
“Jon has suffered from severe depression for many years but Lenny provides a positive start to the day. He makes Alzheimer’s that little less frightening.
“We’re out every day with Lenny. That is a bonus for our health and socialising – we are forever stopping to talk to people. Jon can’t bear to be without Lenny now. He’s the one thing always guaranteed to make him smile.”
Lenny has been particularly helpful throughout the pandemic and lockdowns.
Unfortunately, Jon now struggles to walk very far but he still enjoys short walks and sitting in the garden and throwing balls for Lenny. Jeanette also gets outside regularly for exercise with their pet.
Jeannette added: “I walk him for about an hour every day which I don’t think I’d be doing otherwise but because it’s something I have to do I go out even when I don’t really feel like it! I never regret going and I always enjoy it.
“I think it’s also the emotional impact that he’s had on us both that’s been most important, particularly now Jon can’t get out as much. Jon has so much affection for Lenny and it’s reciprocated, he’s such an affectionate, gentle creature.
“When it’s been just the two of us at home during the lockdown having Lenny is like having a third person, but probably less trouble than a real person would be.
“He always welcomes us and we share and enjoy him. I suspect we’d be more likely to get irritated with each other without Lenny, he’s great for diffusing any tension or low moods in the house.”