The project “Dementia Dog Friends” is finishing at the end of August with many positive results.
The project started with research on the good practices and the scientific examinations of the effects of dog therapy for people with dementia. After this, there have been two trainings for the young volunteers participating in the project that taught them how to communicate with a person with dementia and with dogs. They were given educational cases such as recognizing a person with dementia on a photo or sharing how they would react in certain cases (for example, if the person with dementia is angry, sad, nervous, etc.).
The second training aimed at improving the volunteers’ knowledge about stray dogs and the appropriate approach toward them. They were instructed on how to keep the dogs in a friendly and calm mood as well as on how to choose an appropriate dog for a person with dementia. After the two trainings the volunteers together with their mentors chose dogs from the “Every Dog Matters EU” sanctuary.
The volunteers had meetings with the people with dementia before they brought the dogs to them. In this way, they had the opportunity to learn more about the people with dementia and to communicate with them. The volunteers improved their empathy and knowledge about the problems of the people with dementia and the conditions in which they have to live in Bulgaria.
After these preparation activities, the team brought the dogs to the resident home “Aleksandrovska”. It turned out to be a positive meeting. The people with dementia opened up to the dogs and started petting and hugging them straightaway. They started communicating with the volunteers about their preferences for the dogs and their stories (as most elderly people in Bulgaria used to live in villages with dogs in their houses). There were even comments such as:
“This is the best day in my life!”
All patients wanted to have these meetings frequently. Moreover, besides of the positivity the dogs brought, the people with dementia had the opportunity to spend some time outside and to talk to younger people.
The project even caught the attention of the national media in Bulgaria and was reflected on TV (by Bulgaria on Air and Nova News) helping for raising awareness on the need for dementia friendly society. You can see a reportage HERE and an interview HERE.
The project will end with a final meeting with stakeholders in September. Right now Alzheimer Bulgaria Association is preparing a final report on the need for such a service and the positive effect of interaction between the different areas in society which will be uploaded on the ABA’s website. The association will also try to develop the project more including organizations with different expertise from Europe.
You can read more about the project HERE.