Life-saving pets: Dogs that calm Alzheimer's patients
Pets are therapeutic for those with Alzheimer's and dementia, experts say. According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, therapy dogs can provide important comfort, companionship, and a sense of connection for those isolated by Alzheimer's and dementia. One dog, a prizewinning golden retriever named James, has been calming residents in the dementia units at the Birmingham Green Nursing Home and Assisted Living facility for several years since he became a therapy dog after retiring from dog shows.
Mara Baun has been documenting the therapeutic effects of dogs on dementia patients at the University of Houston School of Nursing for more than a decade. According to Baun, people with dementia had fewer episodes of disorientation, wandering, and aggression when a dog was resident in the special care unit where they lived. And at the University of Nebraska, researchers found that dogs can provide relief from sundown syndrome, in which those with Alzheimer's become confused and agitated as the light changes at the end of the day.
Takeaway tip: If someone you love suffers from Alzheimer's or dementia, consider the companionship of a therapy dog, or scheduling visits with such a dog. And when considering placing someone in an Alzheimer's care unit, ask about the use of pet therapy.