Service Animals for Seniors

service dogs Most people are familiar with the concept of a service animal. You have probably seen dogs wearing brightly-colored vests, walking city streets with their owners. These animals are more than just pets. They provide a valuable service. They assist the deaf, blind, and other  people with various disabilities. Some of these animals are trained specifically to assist senior citizens. Aging individuals face unique challenges and service dogs can provide necessary assistance.

 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service animals are legally permitted to venture nearly anywhere in order to assist the owner. These highly skilled animals can perform numerous tasks, such as:

  • Turning light switches on and off
  • Recognizing and alerting owner of specific sounds (doorbell, telephone, knocking)
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Reminding the owner to take medications
  • Guiding the owner across streets safely
  • Triggering an emergency call

 

Service Animals for Dementia

Because dementia is technically considered a mental illness, it falls under the ADA. So,service animals for seniors with all types of dementia are permitted  to go most anywhere. These dogs provide their owners with comfort, security, and companionship.

Some common tasks these animals perform include:

  • Assist with mobility, particularly balance
  • Help owner stick to a familiar routine
  • Tactile and cognitive stimulation
  • Relieve symptoms of loneliness and depression
  • Alert others if the owner falls
  • Help prevent the owner from getting lost when venturing outside the home
  • Remind owner to take medications or perform other important tasks  

 

Benefits

Seniors with dementia benefit immensely from owning and working with service animals. Such dogs may improve communication skills, and encourage their owners to exercise. Many seniors who have previously been unresponsive to therapies tend to do very well with service animals. Some people are simply more willing to communicate and connect with their pets. It also provides an opportunity for social interaction with other pet owners. Beyond the obvious health and safety benefits, service dogs provide valuable emotional support as well. The bond between a service dog and its owner is essential for those with dementia.

Disabilities

Service animals assist people with diverse disabilities including:

  • Blindness/visual impairment
  • Deftness
  • Seizure disorders
  • Mobility impairments
  • Diabetes
  • Mental illness\emotional disorders

If you believe your loved one could benefit from owning a service dog, it’s certainly worth further research.   Most states offer free service animals to those who qualify. There is often a significant waiting period and a training program requirement for new pet owners. You may also choose to purchase a service animal from a professional trainer.  Buying a service animal from a private trainer can be costly, as it takes much time and effort to properly prepare one of these animals. If you are interested, below are a few resources to help you get started.

National Association of Service Dogs

National Service Animal Registry

US Service Animals