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I Have Alzheimer’s or Another Dementia
Alzheimer's/Dementia Service Dog
I have been thinking about this for some time now. It seems to me that the biggest issue for folks with Alz or Dementia is being able to live at home for as long as possible. It also seems that the biggest problem to staying at home is that the spouse or caregiver will slowly go crazy taking care of the one with Alz. My wife and I were primary caregivers for my Mom, who had Alz. We finally ended up putting her in a care facility, where she ultimately dies from cancer, although she didn't have any idea what was going on at the time. We have friends who have had spouses with Alz, and we watched it crush the spouse taking care of them.
Now that the shoe is on my foot, I want to stay at home for as long as possible, but I don't want to crush my wife in the process. With a little help, I think staying relatively independent might be possible for any number of years, who knows. The deal is for my wife to be able to leave home without me, and not fear that something terrible might happen. She could be gone a few hours, or possibly even a few days in the beginning. Right now, I fully independent, even if I am screwed up. But this wonderful state won't last forever.
I have been thinking about getting an Alz/Dementia Service Dog. I have found a very honest and reputable trainer of top Service Dogs about 2 hours from where we live. Just assume I'm right about the honest and reputable part, because I realize there are lots of frauds and scams out there. They can take a fully trained PTSD Service Dog and give it additional training for a number of specific tasks. The task would include bringing me home if I get lost. Finding my car if I can't find it (at least for as long as I can drive). Go out the door with me and stay with me no matter what. Carry a GPS collar so my wife can find us using her iPhone. It is even possible to use an iPhone to make the dog's collar alert the dog to bring me home if I don't happen to know I'm actually lost. The dog can push an emergency button at home that would immediately notify my wife of a problem, so she could return or call for help. The dog could find me if I got out without the dog and got lost. The dog could push the same button if I asked the dog to get help. Make sure I leave if the fire alarm went off and I didn't notice the significance of the alarm. There are other things, but it would be important to keep things simple in order for a service dog to actually be able to do them consistently correct.
These basic tasks should make it possible for my wife to leave me alone for periods of time for a much longer than she otherwise would if we didn't have the dog, possibly many years. Service dogs aren't cheap, but they cost less than in-home care for a year or less, plus the person with Alz has a best buddy to keep them feeling safe and secure, which is what any regular dog can do.
Am I crazy for thinking about this? I have already spoken with the trainer, who says that these tasks would be fairly easy to teach a trained dog to do.
Just thinking about options. Personally, and I know everyone is different, I don't plan on ever entering a memory care facility, so anything that can allow me to stay at home and not crush my wife is literally a life saver for me.
Why not post a question on both of the caregiver's pages asking if anyone has had experience with a service dog.
Hi, Bill. There are many threads on using a service dog. The problem that I see, is that the dog must be supervised by the handler. In the usual cases, the handler who might be blind, deaf, or of limited mobility, has normal cognition and can direct the service dog on what to do. You cannot rely on a dog to be aware of all safety issues and to get help.
There are known issues on having a patient with dementia remain at home throughout the illness. The main issues are aggression and violence, incontinence, repeated falls and inability to provide personal hygiene care in the home. You cannot expect a dog to deal with aggression and violence, incontinence, repeated falls, and personal hygiene issues.
The Spouse/Partner board has many members who cared for their spouses throughout their illness. It would help you and your wife to visit that board and share your concerns with them for more perspective.
I too, plan to remain independent for as long as I can. I have learned so much about independence from my fellow members. It's great that we can share what we learn here to promote independence.
Iris L, thanks for your comments. Yes, there are a whole lot of things a service dog won't be able to do, but there are some things that a service dog can do. For me, anything is better than nothing, and I won't allow my wife to be chained to me 24/7, and I won't have strangers in my house watching over me. A service dog seems to me to be a good middle ground that might actually help some, not completely, but some.
It is possible that I might look at things a tad different from some other folks. About 6 years ago, some of the best cardiac experts around told me I was dead meat if I didn't get a transplant immediately. Even as I improved, they still told me that I had only a year or two. I had lost 90% of my heart function, so I understood the reality of my situation. Even now, the docs say it could come back with a vengeance at any point in time. I want to live as long as I can have a halfway decent quality of life without ruining the lives of those I love. I now find this new challenge confronting me just as things seemed to be getting better. Just another bump in the road of life, I guess. I well and truly hate it, but there isn't a thing I can do about it.
I already like this Board because only folks who have walked in the same shoes can truly know what us cognitively challenged folks are going through. I had wanted to say dimwits or brainless, but I didn't want to offend anyone. It is what it is. I'm not going to hide it or hide from it. I just want to know the facts so I can prepare, plus enjoy hopefully many more years of playing the banjo and guitar with a lot of other older folks and younger ones too.
Good luck to us all as we find our way through this mess.
I am not a dimwit nor brainless, nor are the members of this board. I have read some of the most amazing posts from members here. One thing I have noticed about myself and posting, is that I can write an amazing post, but as soon as I post it, I forget what I have written, and I cannot go back and dredge it up again. So, that tells me that I still have amazing things within me, but they are fleeting.
I think of myself and of my fellow members as being Dementia Pioneers. I take comfort in being a Pioneer, and perhaps making things better for those who come after me.
Back to the dog. I posted about a wonder-dog who helped around the house. Is this what you were thinking?
Iris L, you and I obviously don't know each other. I am sorry if you were offended, but when I referred to dimwit and brainless I was joking about myself. I guess it might have been sick humor, but I certainly did not mean to make anyone upset or feel badly. To give you an idea of my twisted way of dealing with adversity, when I was racing towards death on the transplant list, a very good friend of mine with cancer and I had a private contest going over who would die first. The good news is that we're both alive and kicking 5 years later. One of the only ways I can get through all of this is to make light of it sometimes. We are all carrying a very, very heavy load. I know it, you know it, and unfortunately many others will never know or understand it. In fact, many of those closest to us want nothing to do with our afflictions, as they fear the day when they might be walking in our shoes. The nice thing about this Board is that we're all in the same boat together. I'll do my best not to rock it any more than I apparently already have. I certainly don't want to be the source of discomfort for someone else in the same boat I occupy.
What upsets me the most is that so little has been done to find a cure or method of prevention for dementia in general, and Alz in particular. We spend tons of money on other things that afflict fewer people and that cost the overall system less to take care of. Why the lag on Alzheimer's? I personally plan to do what I can to let folks know that Alz isn't limited to little old ladies and gents in their 90s in nursing homes.
Have a nice weekend. The sun is out this morning, and the temp is in the mid-20s around these parts. Since the wind is not blowing much, my wife and I plan to go for a walk around a nearby lake later this morning. Take care.
Twenties ib NC! Wow!
Bill, I was not offended or upset. I was trying to offer an alternative view. Very often caregivers and sometimes patients will come on and make disparaging remarks about our brains. Memory loss is often a joke in our culture.
I believe we are AWESOME people, to be going forth with our lives and learning how to deal with the new challenges despite having less cognitive ability! People should be praising us, not mocking us.
Did you get a chance to see the little dog?
I have had a dog offered for free but
did not go with it. It sounds great but also a lot of other responsibility for
you and your wife. There is also the issue you need to remember the commands.
What happens when you can’t. It does require you to help in that training. I
thought and could be wrong that I may be inconsistent in the training which
would have a bad out come for the expectations. I have had small dogs and
trained them so I know what it takes. It really relies on being very consistent
with them. You need to also keep in mind of the huge cost upfront along with
down the road. There is lots of technology today that can do many things for
you if you have the money.
Hello, everyone. First, let me extend my apologies for being on your board. I clicked it in error, wanting to go to the discussion board for those who have lost a loved one. However, I saw the discussion on guide dogs and thought that I would add my two cents because I have 20 years of personal experience with guide dogs. Both Iris and Mimi know me from the Spouse/Partner discussion board.
My husband, Dickson, had early onset Alzheimer's and passed away on February 28th. He was 68 years old and lived as a blind person for nearly 30 years. He had two guide dogs from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown, NY. The first one, Style, was a black lab, and when she passed away, Dickson was trained with Jane Baby, a yellow lab. Sadly, Jane Baby is at the end of her life and will be put to sleep tomorrow morning, cancer has spread deeply into her lungs and her health has declined.
I have seen my husband with Style when he was super independent, taking the bus to work everyday and then I got to experience Dickson with Jane Baby as he moved into all the stages of Alzheimer's. The thing to remember is that no matter how well trained the animal is, it's a dog! Both Style and Jane Baby were service dogs but they can only do as well as a dog's brain will let them. They prefer to eat and sleep, but when working, will take the command of their master. They are not mind readers who know to do tasks for you.
I remember when Dickson would put Jane Baby in her harness for a walk. I had to follow them around in the car because Jane Baby would go where Dickson told her to go. The problem is that Dickson didn't know where he was going. Sometimes Dickson would elude me and I'd get calls from the police that they had picked up Dickson and the dog, once in the dead of winter. One time I found Dickson and Jane Baby at a local park. She wasn't given instruction where to go, so Jane Baby went where she wanted to spend her time, although she did direct Dickson to a bench for him to sit. Sometimes if you say to the dog, "take me to the park", they will know how to get you there. However, the dog gets distracted with squirrels and other dogs, so the master has to know the park is 3 blocks, make a left, go 8 blocks, make a right, etc.
It seems that you are adamant about getting a dog, which I think is great because the dog will provide you with a lot of love and companionship. However, a dog is very expensive and a lot of work. Also, I saw Style become very sick when Dickson was nearly stage 7. I think she sensed my husband's decline and it got to the point where we almost lost her. Thankfully, she recovered and lived a good life for another 2 years.
Again, this is just my two cents, and I do wish you well with your decision. I admire your determination.
Kindest regards, Debra.
One thing I did not mention before is this. The caregiver spouses are always complaining about their LOs repeating themselves, or being inconsistent or vague. How would repeating, inconsistency and vagueness appear to a dog? It would be traumatizing. The cgs want to pull their hair out. We can't allow a dog to become so stressed.
Maybe you could keep a journal of your adventures with the dog? It might be an important document for others who'd like to travel this path as well.
Best wishes, I'm going back to my thread now! Nice speaking with everyone.
Take care, Debra.
We have always had 1-2 dogs so when we found ourselves dog-less went rescue shopping. My one must was that I could wash the dog in the kitchen simk.
Well, Luke found us and he weighs 85 lbs. Best therapy every for my husband...the responsibility falls on me. Get a dog if you want a dog but know full well that the day is going to come when you are going to need something more. Get a dog because you love dogs.
Got a good kick out of picturing you sink washing a dog and Luke picking you and your husband. As some of you know I lost my dear pal Diesel in October. That is the hard part of having a dog but I'd never change anything! If your a true dog lover the love of a dog always outweighs the hard parts of caring for a pet. I probably will get another dog someday when I retire. My granddaughter wants to get me a puppy for Xmas! I would want another rescue dog vs a puppy but I'm not ready yet. When I was a young widow my niece showed up at my house with my Boomer. He was abandoned, a beautiful Shepard-Golden mix. He lived 14 years and set me on the path to healing.
There are pro's and con's with everything. I think a dog will be a new and wonderful adventure for both you and your wife. Documenting your experiences with a service dog could prove to be useful to others in years to come. I am looking forward to hearing about your adventure.
Yeah, I would love to see an 85 pound dog get washed in the kitchen sink. It would take a very large sink for sure. Love the story and the picture in my mind. Thanks for sharing.
Service dogs are GREAT, but they can't do it all. The gps collar you mentioned would be terrific and you're right about their being able to notify in case of emergency (I recently saw a demonstration by a PTSD dog dialing 911). Two problems: (1) you have to take care of the dog and (2) you and the dog must be a fit.
My wife works and I stay home alone (so far), even when she has to be gone for several days. I have a care-partner dachsund (a variation on a service dog). Couldn't make it through the day without her. She let's me know when someone is at the door, she's adapted to my routines so she makes sure I take her out, including for walks, at certain times of the day (even if it's cold and rainy), reminds me (not very accurately but still a reminder) when its time to take meds, she is generally a few feet away in a protect position (tail toward me, facing the other way) and because I have hallucinations (FTD/LBD) she keeps me honest (if I hear or see something and she doesn't react I know it's me, not real). Otherwise she is a loving companion.
There are, of course, some things she can't do (hygiene reminders, as someone mentioned earlier, for example), but she is a loving and strong companion. Not long ago my legs decided not to work and I wound up on the floor wedged between the bed and the dresser. No way she could help me up (a large PTSD dog is trained to support you as you get up). I called for assistance on my cell. She curled up next to me until she heard someone at the door, then she went bouncing and barking till they came in and she led them to me.
I strongly recommend a companion that matches you. An older dog (not as rambunctious as a puppy or 1-2 year old--we got ours when she was 12 and have had her for two years), well housebroken, generally friendly with everyone unless threatened, and as a rule not a risk to push you over or trip you. Remember, dogs are territorial (your house becomes theirs) and they are pack animals (you become theirs, not the other way around). Regardless of the breed, be prepared to bathe them, feed them, give them a bed, have them go on trips with you, lay on you, sit in the same chair with you, and sleep with you (our Dee Dee is extremely disturbed by thunderstorms and the only way for us to get any sleep is for her to be in bed with us). And then there is the vet (especially with an older dog).
Whatever you decide, best of luck, and enjoy every moment of every day.
Welcome to our online support group, mrranch. Your doxie sounds great. I hope you were not hurt by your fall.
Thanks. Luck to us all.
Hi Bill, and welcome to the forum. I am not sure what country you are in, but am
assuming the USA.
There is a trainer in California,
is that the one you were thinking of?
We were considering buying a dog from him. It is
$15,000-$20,000 for a dog from him. However,
I found (as a previous horse and dog trainer) that he makes a lot of promises
that seemed iffy to me, and the more I talked to him, the weirder it felt. My daughter looked him up and found some very
negative reviews. Then I saw a YouTube
training video on his site and that was enough for me...to me, it spoke
volumes. The dogs were scared and
intimidated, and it was not him asking the dogs to do and letting the dogs sort
it out, as he had promised. For me, it
was epic disappointment.
Bob, at Dog Wish in California
has this training video on his site (the dogs seem stressed and scared)
I have since found, that there is another person with dementia
who DID purchase a dog from him, but had to hire another trainer to fix the
dog. And he can't say enough for the dog
- he loves the dog to bits and is very glad he did it. I wish I could remember his name. He is still active online, just not
here. He is part of the DAI online video
groups...the leaders of those groups know who he is.
I thought that I would do better to get a dog and have it
trained for the basics and then do the specific task-training myself. Fairly near me is a trainer, for $6,000 turns
out amazingly well behaved, reliable, calm dogs. However, I held off. Decisions can take a bit longer when you have
Then I came online to this group, and a member wrote about
her dog and how he comes near to her whenever she is confused, and I was again
I ended up getting a dog at the pound, a Belgium Sheppard (Groenendael
type), we named Bodhisattva, and he has been just so intuitive and taken right
to tasks that I am sort of just training him myself. Really, I just suggest something to him and
he just does it, so I really cannot take any credit. I use very few, if any,
cues...it is more of a psychic bond. Indeed,
words seem to make him uneasy.
Right now he is working reliably as a balance dog. I use a harness on him that I hang onto, and
if I start losing my balance, he moves to block me. He will stand there, bracing on me, and I can
lean my whole weight on him...and he will stay there until I catch my balance
and am ready to walk again. He's been
the best deal ever, for me, as I very much need to use a cane for frequent falls
and balance issues, but can't due to chronic tennis elbows.
As always, it has to be the right dog for you. If you have the time and money, take the time
to sort through the dogs (knowing you will like every one of them) until you
find just that right mix of unnamable *something* that they need to have...because
they are out there in all walks of life.
I have mixed feelings about dogs bred and trained for the
work, as I feel they miss *something* I personally need them to have. Like the other poster's story of the blind
dog, my ex-husband's brother was blind and his dog from the wonderful complex
in Marin, California,
led him out into the street and he was hit by a car and killed. I think you need a dog that pays attention to,
and tunes into, you. Unlike a guide dog,
and most other service bred dogs, you need one that is so tuned into you, that
they would break training to alert you or others, or break training to pull you
home...those others are valued because they will not break training. I picked Bodhi because he leaned on me and
stuck at my side (and was good with the baby), beyond that I cannot put into
words how I knew it was him, I just knew.
Like you, I too have an extensive list of tasks I would like
to teach him to do for me. Bodhi, seems
smart, willing, and very much wanting for a job to do...and seems to take a lot
of pride in doing it. And there is just
something beyond words about when we are out walking and he catches me, that he
is doing something I cannot do for myself, and he knows it and is happy to be
there for me...it is truly awe-inspiring to be a part of that partnership.
I say go for it. And
I second the notion of writing about it, as I am sure many would appreciate
following the journey...and you never know who you will inspire to try this for
Also, the training work you do now with the dog, in the
earlier stages of the disease, can (and will if you let it) push you to be and
do more than maybe you would otherwise do and be. Learning about training, and trying
things...these are all good ways to evoke neuroplasticity...and, in my humble
opinion, should be included in the Best Practices line up to stave off the
effects of the disease process for as long as possible. I am stage 5, but I am all about doing
everything I can to slow this disease down.
Aside from me and that other guy, we are the only two that I
know of who have done it...you would be the third. He is a part of the support groups through
Dementia Alliance International or DAI, you may want to contact them and see if
they can't put you in contact with him, the leaders know who he is. He would be a real good guy to speak to if
you are considering buying a dog from Bob, in California.
PS: I put up some dry
erase boards, that I mark off that I have fed and watered him each day (just in
case he didn't remind me), and one by the door, that I mark off each time I let
him out. However, he is great about
asking to go out when he needs to. I
don't feel the cold, and now that winter is upon us, so I am working on a plan
to stay safe walking him. I write about
it, here and in a blog.
Best of luck to you, how you will tell us whatever you
decide to do and how it goes. Again,
welcome to the forum.
Yeah, I saw the Scotland dogs too...but have had no answers from them on whether they would work with me in the USA. I tried.
Far from untrained, I think the dog I got was a service dog reject...as he seems to have all the training in him already. I lucked out. But I also spent months actively looking.
I know what you mean about adapting the training, seems all simple enough.
Glad you have a great place by you. We don't. Well we do, but they will only do dogs for kids. However, we have a top notch trainer here, should I go that route.
PS, the guy in the dementia groups is a real guy...and he has been glad about the dog. But it is nice to know that you and I had the same opinion of the guy in CA.
TSSR, Yes, it sure sounds like your dog is either a genius or has had training from somewhere. It is possible the dog is just really smart. As for training, sounds like you are doing great as is, but I don't think it would hurt to have a good expert help you out. By the way, they can train a service dog to go to the bathroom when told to go and where told to go. It really is quite amazing the things a dog can do if handled properly. I'm glad to hear the guy in the dementia article is the real deal, because I figured he was part of the fraud deal. I could not believe how many fraudulent sites there are for service dogs. I came within an inch of talking with a fairly close by breeder who turned out to be a total fraud. I'm glad you have a good trainer to help you, assuming you end up going that way. By the way, you have a really beautiful dog. Good luck.
Dementia service dogs can be such a blessing in so many ways. Three tasks barely touches their capabilities. I would encourage everyone interested in service dogs to read dogwishservicedogs.com.
If dogs were allowed in the apartment complex I live in, I would move Heaven and earth to have one of those dogs. Happy reading!