Canine carer celebrated at Assistance Dogs Australia graduation ceremony

Skip is part of Australia’s first assistance dog program to help people living with dementia and their families. He recently graduated from the program at a ceremony for assistance dogs in Sydney.

Richard Bartlett has been living with dementia for the past four years. His wife, Jennifer, said there came a point where she couldn’t leave Richard on his own. She knew something had to be done. 

Jennifer attended a lecture at HammondCare where she was offered a brochure for the Dog4Dementia program. The more she looked into it, the more she felt it could be helpful to Richard. That’s why she decided to apply for an assistance dog.

After a few lengthy interviews to assess eligibility, a black Labrador named Skip was delivered to Richard and Jennifer’s house.

Skip became an integral part of the family in no time and is respected and admired by his community. Being with Skip has paved the way for Richard to make social connections with other people.

“It’s helping to combat the stigma that’s often associated with dementia,” said Dementia Centre Consultant Deborah Moore.

Jennifer says she feels more secure knowing that Skip is with Richard on his walks.

“It’s a great comfort to me when I throw them both out the door. I know that Skip will help [Richard] if needed. I’m sure of it,” she said.

Research is also revealing a number of health benefits, for people living with dementia, associated with having an assistance dog.

“Not only do these specially trained assistance dogs provide additional support for people living with dementia,” said Ms Marie Alford, Head of Implementation at the Dementia Centre, “our research has also shown they reduce anxiety and create greater opportunities for autonomy – they bring joy, comfort and companionship.”

Changing lives – one dog at a time

We received over 400 expressions of interest for this innovative project. The findings from this pilot program have demonstrated excellent outcomes including opportunities for greater autonomy for the person living with dementia and their carer. We are now seeking funding to continue the Dogs4Dementia program.

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