Tag: dementia centre

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.

Find out more










Greta and Me, while Chookie was in Hospital

Graham’s Blog

When Jan went to Warringal Hospital on the 27th of February to have her left knee replaced, Greta and I shared the responsibilities of running the house, watching television together and updating our friends on Jan’s progress. Our walks in the park along (and in) the creek, sometimes interrupted by rain, kept us on the ‘straight and narrow’. On the 8th of March Jan was transferred to Donvale Rehabilitation Hospital (great staff!!). Greta didn’t get a look-in at either hospital. Still, we continued to have talks, pats and treats such as cooked chicken meat and the occasional bone.

Jan returned home on Saturday the 18th of March, but to our surprise, expected to be looked-after as though Greta and I were Professors of Medicine. The three of us have now called a ‘Truce’ and now all is quiet on the home front. Jan is Happy; Greta is Happy; Graham is Happy. PHEW! By Graham

A Daughters Reflection

When mum was recently in hospital for a knee replacement, for 3 weeks, we (the 3 daughters) were concerned how Dad would go on his own.  Lots of visits were organized and the freezer was packed with food by mum. We should not have worried! Dad was great on his own, didn’t touch the food in the freezer..(why would you??… when MacDonald’s is on the way home from the hospital, and the bakery is a short drive away!) The biggest relief we felt was knowing when Dad would get home after visiting mum, the beautiful Greta would be there to greet him, and love him unconditionally. Greta gave him a routine. He had to continue to get up and feed her in the morning, keep walking her every day. She would lie at his feet when he sat to read the paper or have a snooze in the chair, and would follow him like a shadow as he did the washing and ironing. We are so grateful for the gift that is Greta! Words can’t explain the joy, richness or security having Greta provides. We are so grateful! By Renee



The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.

Our friend Zorro

It has been a while but anyone who is caring for someone with this horrendous disease knows, sometimes it takes all you have to get through the day! Which then turns into weeks then before you know it months have gone by, and you have no idea how that happened.

Loretta and myself have known each other since 1972, we grew up together, she was 14 and I was 15. You might say we where made for each other, and I really do think that is true.  I am starting this article this way to give a bit of a back drop on what Zorro the Dog (and I use that word lightly as I think he forgets this sometimes and demands he is human) has found himself coming into.

Like any relationship trust and friendship is important and with Zorro this took place very quickly. Within a few weeks he trusted us and with those big hazel eyes, looked into ours and declared that we where friends.  It felt like a seamless grafting into our family and the relationship grows as I write this. I call Zorro a friend because he likes hanging out and nothing is too much bother for him.  Everywhere we go he wants to go, and on the occasion that we leave him at home, when we get back he gives us a good sniff so he can find out where we have been. It has been just over seven months now since we brought Zorro into our home and he has become part of us now, so much so that we could not imagine life without him.

A few months back we had the opportunity to take Zorro back to where he was trained from a pup – what an experience that was. We found ourselves standing in the car park of a high security prison with no idea of what we would find inside. Zorro was acting like he new this place and was almost pulling into the reception area.  As we entered the reception I noticed a dog at the end of a corridor with a women doing all she could to keep this dog running down to greet us. With this I also became aware that Zorro was pulling me and whimpering a bit at this same dog!  I looked more closely at the dog at the end of the corridor and it was like looking at Zorro, but then the logistics of getting passed the reception took over. Photographs had to be taken, fingerprints also.  This all had to be done in order for us to go inside the prison, however Zorro was attracting some attention from the prison guards who all knew him and were calling his name and commenting on how he had grown so much.  Truly we where with a VID and there were no paw prints or photos needed for Zorro. He was known and loved by all and from everyone we met, we where left with no doubt that Zorro was a star and missed by all.   After we had done all we had needed to do to get passed the reception, I inquired about the other dog and found out that this was Zorro’s brother and that when we got into the prison we would also meet Zorro’s sister. A real homecoming for Zorro and a family reunion, what a day this will be I thought.

So as we made our way through all the locked doors we really did not know what to expect. We arrived where Zorro was trained and he saw his brother and sister. To say he got excited would be an understatement.  The trainers where all there and all the guards paid more attention to Zorro than anything else. Then we met the the man who had trained Zorro and you could tell there was a special bond between them. Zorro was excited and so was he.  There where speeches made, food, tea and Zorro had all the Pig ears he could eat. The incredible thing was to see these men who had done something to be put into this maximum security prison, with these dogs so well trained that they will make such a big difference in peoples lives all over the country.  Men who where now putting back rather than taking, and as I got to speak with a few of them, their delight in doing this program was almost pinned on their chest like a medal of honor.  It makes you see that the dog program is so multi-faceted and will run deep in society for years to come. We really do owe a big debt to the men and women who run this program and the men who are using their time in prison to give back. I know for one as I talked with them, that training these dogs has had a profound influence on their lives. They will not come out of there the same men they walked in as.  Just a foot note to all this, Zorro was the first one to come back and the only dog from that program on the day.  I know it is hard and a long way to go but I just urge people to make the effort to let them see the fruit of their labour. If you can’t get there send a photo with thanks and a story or two just so they know that what they are doing is working and that their lives do matter, and what they are doing is life changing.  let us not forget our K9 friends who greet us in the morning like we have been way for years, and that everyday and all day just want to be around us and go everywhere with us!

It started in a prison and continues in our homes.

By Malcolm Baxter


The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.

Meet Jan, Graham and Greta

Greta joined our family in October 2016. We were terribly excited to have been given this opportunity, and awaited her arrival with joy!

With so many instructions to remember, we felt a little overwhelmed at first, but Greta’s beautiful loving and gentle personality won our hearts, and we weren’t going to let her down!

So she has accompanied us to Church, shopping, Café s, and concerts, but we really love it most when she is just a dog!

She is very clever and well behaved when out walking…

But our greatest joy has been teaching her to return to us after running free without a lead. It takes a lot of chicken, but it’s worth it to see her running down to the creek, playing with dogs, and running for sheer joy!


Greta follows Graham like a shadow at home, and the bond they have developed is so positive. The love Greta exudes when we come home, or wake in the morning is so good for the soul, and is a soothing balm for the sometimes rocky road of Alzheimer’s.

We have cut back on taking her to music concerts at Hamer Hall (she enjoyed the music so much she joined in with her own singing!!), but apart from that, she is a very significant part of our family.

We are so grateful to the HammondCare staff, and the Assistance Dogs trainers for your patience with us, and the amazing gift of Greta you have brought to our lives. It is hard to quantify the richness she has added to our conversations, our daily rituals, and our every day life!


The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.


A 4km walk in the Mother’s Day Classic, Bendigo

Event: Rolf, Vyrna and Jiyu walked in Sunday’s 4 km Mothers’ Day Classic in Bendigo accompanied by 3 daughters, 2 grandchildren and 2 partners.

Weather: soft rain throughout, invigorating rather than disagreeable.

Advice on terrain prior to walk: ‘starts across a grassed soccer field, then mostly paved, a bit up and down, and some compressed sand you can walk around; should be OK for your walker, and you are very welcome to come. By the way, don’t start in the front.’

Tactics: started in the back so as not to impede others’ progress. Were pipped to the post near the end by a small family with a pram and a 3-year old who maybe walked all the way.

Result: came in last to a welcoming crew of volunteers who were probably longing to dismantle the finishing line arch and get home out of the rain.

Summary: Last to leave and last to finish, nothing if not consistent! A very special experience to share with family on Mothers’ Day, our enjoyment boosted by the steady presence of our wonder dog, Jiyu, who walked beside Rolf all the way and who, for Rolf, added to the normality of the event. ‘Have dog, will walk’. By the way, Jiyu wore Rolf’s number plus a pink sash from a past event.

Aftermath: Mugs of coffee and a second breakfast. Contentment.

Story by Vyrna Beilharz


The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.