Dementia dog study seeks to prove effectiveness of assistance animals

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A new Australian-first study is examining the effectiveness of using assistance dogs to help people with younger onset dementia.

The research takes 20 guide dogs, normally used by visually-impaired people, and re-trains them to assist people living with the condition, as well as their carers.

It is being undertaken by The University of Melbourne, Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs, and Dementia Australia, and the early results are encouraging.

Edie Mayhew was diagnosed with younger onset dementia in 2010. As part of the study, she’s been paired with a white labrador called Melvin.

“I love him a lot.”

Ms Mayhew’s partner and carer, Anne Tudor, said life had improved since Melvin arrived about 12 months ago.

“We now need to spend a lot more time at home as the dementia progresses,” Ms Tudor said.

“He makes it so much easier for us to do that.

“It’s wonderful, it’s like having a beautiful child that doesn’t cause too many hassles.”

The dogs are trained to sense mood, tone of voice and anxiety, and can also help if their owner gets lost.

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