The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the US is increasing. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss conditions is projected to rise from 5 million in 2016 to 16 million in 2050.
About 18% of that growth will happen right here in New York State.
Centers like the Loretto Borer Memory Care Center in Jamesville provide activities for residents to help people with dementia lead healthier lives.
Agnes Ray, 94, moved into Loretto’s Borer Memory Care Center in January. Her dog Fritz is her companion and she says she couldn’t live without him.
“He is a pleasure. And he loves everyone in my family and I don’t know what I would do without him,” Ray said.
Agnes, who is dealing with memory loss, loves dogs. With a little guidance from staff, she recently joined other residents at the Loretto center as they got to work in the memory care center’s kitchen.
The mission for the day was to bake treats for dogs in need of a home, and she currently stays with Helping Hounds Dog Rescue.
From mixing pumpkin and peanut butter, to flour and eggs, the group had plenty of fun while staying engaged, as studies show that baking stimulates brain activity and can provide therapy for those with dementia.
“It doesn’t bring back normalcy, but a lot of familiarity from when they were younger and it brings back all those memories of these good times that they had in the kitchen and whatnot,” said Shannon Loughlin, director of life enrichment at Borer Memory Care Facility. .
Studies show that baking stimulates brain activity and can provide therapy for people with dementia.
After mixing the ingredients and using some dog bone trimmings, the treats were put in the oven. Then a few hours later the dogs were brought in for a visit. Of course, the residents weren’t the only ones happy.
“It’s wonderful for dogs. This dog, for example, came from Mississippi on Saturday as a stray so we’ve only had him five days and the dog needs to be socialized so this is a treat to be invited here,” said Hetty, a rescue volunteer from Helping Hounds dogs. Gingold.
This socialization quickly creates a positive environment for both the home-seeking dogs and these residents. Even though she has her own dog, people like Agnes Ray always enjoy days like this.
“It felt good, it felt good. She had never done it before,” Ray said.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who surely could use brighter days ahead.
According to the Bright Focus Foundation, the presence of pets can help reduce the effects of dementia, which include anxiety, agitation, irritability, depression and loneliness.
By their kindness and non-threatening manner, pets can help a dementia patient to be more interactive, when sometimes they cannot in social settings with other adults.
As detailed in a 2017 article published by Alzheimer’s News Today, service dogs can help anyone with dementia. They can be taught hundreds of little tasks that can really make a big difference for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, giving them back some autonomy, allowing them to get more out of life and relieving some of the burden on caregivers.
According to Alzlive.com, training to become a dementia support dog is no easy task and requires young dogs to have a certain type of temperament. Service dogs tend to be one of a few breeds: Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, or collies.