Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive disabilities serious enough to interfere with daily living. Currently, there are roughly 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. Sadly. that number is projected to increase to 14 million by 2050.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any known cures at the moment or even effective treatments for Alzheimer’s. The progression of the disease is difficult to even slow down. There are, however, various things that those struggling with Alzheimer’s can do to at least improve their daily life, not to mention help alleviate some stress of worrying family members.
A popular form of care that is gaining some momentum within the Alzheimer’s community involves four-legged friends. There are over 75 million pet dogs in the U.S., which is more than any other country. These dogs are great for providing company, comfort, and even offer some cognitive benefits, as well.
According to People, free therapy dog sessions are helping those affected by Alzheimer’s smile, engage, and transform.
“Once you see them with the dogs, it is just smiles, joy, stories, and laughter,” said Molly Fogel, director of education and social services at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). “They become almost transformed and leave with smiles on their faces excited to come back.”
One day a month, the AFA’s Education and Resource Center in New York City will host free therapy dog bonding sessions to anyone affected by Alzheimer’s. This doesn’t just mean the patients, either, but their caregivers, family, and friends can come by and spend some time with smiling puppies.
“The mission of the AFA is to provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide, and fund research for better treatment and a cure,” added Fogel.
Dog Time adds that the Good Dog Foundation is partnering with the AFA and providing two of their trained therapy dogs visit the center each month. These therapy dogs are trained specifically to interact and engage with the elderly. The nonprofit organization reserves 15 slots for the free therapy sessions, which enables participants to get plenty of quality time with the therapy dogs.
Pets help seniors struggling with cognitive issues, as well as family members and caregivers who are dealing with the emotional impacts of Alzheimer’s. Plus, dogs are great at alleviating anxieties, decreasing feelings of isolation, and increases overall self-esteem that comes from the bond that is shared with a pet or therapy dog.