What is the best way to remove a dog from a parent with Alzheimer's?

Nursetds asked...

What is the best way to remove a dog from a parent with Alzheimers? She has had this dog since my father passed away 8 years ago. She is living in an assisted living home, she doesn't remember to take the dog out to do his business and her apartment is begining to smell and the director has asked us to remove the dog. Without upsetting her too bad what is the best way to do this?

Expert Answer

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. Previously, she directed Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

You don’t say whether your mother still views her dog as a companion or whether she ignores the dog completely.  If the former, then you might want to try to keep the dog in the family for a while so it can visit.  If someone can take the dog and bring it for frequent visits, that may help her adjust to its loss. If she is very attached to the dog, I would recommend setting up a regular visiting schedule and a calendar for her. Photos may also help.  I have seen people with dementia who become just as attached to the photographs as they were to the animal.  

You will need to give her an explanation of why the dog is not living with her anymore.  It seems best to be straightforward and say that the rules have changed and the dog is no longer allowed there on a permanent basis but can come visit frequently.