I read a very inspirational story today by someone who has early onset dementia. As the author lives in the US I asked if he had posted this story on any websites in the UK, as I knew there will be members here on Talking Point (for example) who would be interested. He has given me permission to cut and paste his story exactly as he has posted to his local newspaper. I hope you find it interesting and uplifting.

Sam… my dementia service dog
By Rick Phelps.

“I have Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. I was officially diagnosed in June of 2010. I had been experiencing memory deficits for at least 4 years prior to that, maybe longer.

Most who know me know I am not one to crawl up on the couch and watch TV, letting this disease get the best of me. For all intents and purposes you would not know I have dementia unless you talked with me for a bit.

Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain. It’s much more than memory loss. Remember that. If you have had this horrible disease come into your life, it is a disease of the brain. Just like cancer is a disease of the body.

You as a caregiver have to live in the patient’s world. They simply cannot live in yours. What they once enjoyed could now scare them to death. What once was, is no longer. The person is not the same.

It’s the disease that does this, not your loved one. It’s always the disease. I started a social networking site up on Facebook called “Memory People™ over two years ago. It’s a closed site where members could share their stories both good and bad.

We now have over 2,000 members worldwide. We have laypersons and professionals. We have caregivers, nurses, doctors, neurologists, lawyers, and family members, all with one thing in common, this horrible disease we call Alzheimer’s, or any of the types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is just one of the types of disease under the umbrella of dementia. There are many, Lewy Body, Frontal Lobe, Vascular… Alzheimer’s just happens to be the most common.

Back in March of this year I was contacted by an organization who trains dementia service dogs. I had no idea such a thing even existed. I was told that I indeed have someone who wants to donate a service dog to me for my accomplishments I have made in bringing awareness to this disease.

I was both shocked and humbled at the same time. Two weeks ago I was in Southern California to meet and get my dementia service dog, Sam. What I am going to tell you is nothing short of a miracle.

Sam has given me in two short weeks what all the doctors, all the neurologists, and all the medications I have been on for over two years have yet to do. Help me. I am constantly asked, “What does Sam do for you?”

It’s what you can’t see, that he does the best. Sam, just by his presence, affords me the freedom I had lost a long time ago. He has relieved my stress, my anxiety, and my fear. He has given me freedom.

He has been trained extensively to know when things around me are not as they should be. He will not allow me to go outside without him, he alerts me to take my medications, he alerts me if I leave the stove on, he can take me directly to my vehicle, or any vehicle I was in immediately.

Sam is an expert tracker. He can take me home if I get confused. He is trained in what is known as “passive protection”. He will evaluate anyone and anything around me immediately. If there is a probability of danger, Sam will take immediate action and neutralize the situation, before it even becomes a problem.

Sam does all of this and much, much more. But what he gives me most is love, unconditional love and devotion. He never leaves my side, he is 100% focused on me all the time. When he is working and has his vest on you can see the pride in his eyes. He just loves to please me. Even when he is just being a pet to us, he always has his attention on me.

That is his job, that is what he lives for. I share this story because back in March if anyone told me we would be getting a dementia service dog, I would have won a lot of money.

There are many things we need, but financially you just can’t get them. This disease along with everything else will devastate you financially. So a several thousand dollar dog was not even on my radar.

What I want to say, what I need to say is if you know anyone, anyone who is in the early to mid stage of this disease, you simply must check into a dementia service dog. Like I said, we could never have afforded it”.

If anyone is interested in contacting Rick, please send me a PM. There is a growing interest in training dementia assistance dogs in the UK too. http://www.dementiadog.org/dementiadog.org/Home.html