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Seniors and Service Dogs

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Seniors and Service Dogs

For older adults, dogs can be much more than "man's best friend." While many seniors are aware there are dogs trained to guide individuals with vision loss, they may not know there are assistance/service dogs trained to perform a broad range of tasks that could help older adults.

ATRIO Health Plans wants seniors to know that dogs are trained to meet an astounding array of needs, and is taking the opportunity of International Assistance Dog Week (Aug. 5–Aug. 11) to share this important information.

Canine Capabilities

In addition to dogs trained to help those with visual impairments, canines also are trained as:

Service Dogs–Can assist people who have difficulty walking; staying balanced; dressing; grasping and carrying items; pushing buttons; opening doors and drawers. Service dogs also can pull wheelchairs; help with household chores, such as laundry; turn on light switches; remind owner to take his/her medication; bring over a phone; wake up the owner; and keep strangers away.

Hearing Alert Dogs–This type of dog is trained to recognize sounds that those with significant hearing loss can't detect, including: doorbells; telephones; crying babies; emergency-vehicle sirens; alarm clocks; and smoke alarms.

Medical Alert/Medical Response Dogs–These furry wonders are trained to recognize when someone is in medical distress, such as having a heart attack, stroke, diabetic coma, or epileptic seizure. In some instances, these highly trained canines can alert humans that a medical emergency is impending.

Seniors with Dementia

For older adults suffering from dementia, assistance dogs are trained to:

  • Guide their owner home if he or she becomes lost. Assistance dogs also can carry a GPS device in their collars that enables tracking of their location.
  • Help their owner navigate the day–from waking up in the morning to getting dressed and eating meals.
  • Make sure their owner doesn't wander out of the house.
  • Decrease anxiety and behavioral issues.
  • Provide a sense of comfort and safety.

Physical Benefits

Even if a dog isn't needed to provide a senior with specific assistance, studies have shown that canines deliver physical benefits to older adults in the form of reduced blood pressure, improved circulation, as well as increased muscle and bone strength. As an added bonus, these furry creatures are among the best sources of unconditional love.