An elderly Scottish couple has their lives back thanks to a two-year-old golden Labrador named Kaspa, who is one of the first dogs in the United Kingdom to be trained to assist people suffering from dementia.
Ken Will is 79-years-old and was diagnosed with dementia three years ago. His wife Glenys took on the role of caretaker, but the condition was challenging and it took its toll.
“We’ve been married 48 years but often I’ve sat and looked at him and thought, ‘I don’t know who this person is’,” said Glenys.
Kaspa and another dog, Oscar, were the first two dogs to be trained in the Dementia Dog project. The idea came from a group of students at the Glasgow School of Art. The program started with help from Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland. Kaspa and Oscar underwent 18 months of training to learn to help with everyday tasks and bring comfort to those suffering from the disease.
Kaspa helps fetch medicine for Ken when a reminder alarm goes off; helps Ken get out of bed in the morning and other everyday tasks around the house. Kaspa’s biggest impact is the stress relief he provides. When Ken became diagnosed with dementia he became fearful of being alone, now with Kaspa by his side he never has to be and Glenys doesn’t have to worry as much either.
“Kaspa is the best thing that’s ever happened to us,” said Glenys. “We can go shopping and the dog will sit with Ken. I don’t need to worry about him. We’re both more relaxed.”
Oscar has also been successfully settling into his new home with Frank and Maureen Benham. Maureen suffers from dementia and Oscar’s impact has been similar to that of Kaspa’s, making life better for both Maureen and Frank.
“Maureen and I can’t imagine going back to what it was like before we got Oscar,” said Frank.
Kaspa and Oscar have been such a success that two more dogs have already started training.
For more information on the project visit dementiadog.org