Injuries from falls are the most common cause for a person to need the services of a caregiver. Some studies cite a percentage as high as 40% of adults over 70 years of age being unable to return home or live independently after a fall. Among adults over sixty-five, falls are the leading cause of injury or death. Much of the instruction during the rehabilitation process is geared towards learning to cope with new physical limitations and preventing future falls. Medical personnel may recommend that ramps and grab bars should be installed at home for added safety.
One novel approach to help prevent future falls is to train the client’s companion animal to help keep them from falling again. A dog with well-honed obedience skills can be taught to stop at the top and bottom of the stairs and at the edges of curbs, reminding the owner to concentrate on looking for uneven footing and to hold onto a handrail. Clients who are ambulating with a walker should make sure their dog is trained to only walk on one side of them, and ensuring that the dog doesn’t dash across the front of the walker or snag a cane. A dog trained to retrieve dropped objects (keys, T.V. remote, mail) provides a convenient service to its owner while decreasing the chance the owner will suffer a loss of balance when bending over to pick up something. A large breed dog can be trained to “Stand” and “Brace” besides its owner, offering a platform for rising from sitting to standing. People with Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis can also use their dog as a balance aide to steady them as they climb stairs.
For more information about a unique in-home training program for service dogs based on the San Francisco Peninsula, contact Jean Cary at (650) 593-9622 or email JeanCary@me.com