Folksy Ltd

Dementia Dilemma

(Hanna-Mae Williams) #1

I need some advice. I’m so torn.
A family member has alzheimer’s and dementia and owns a cocker spaniel. She overfeeds it as she doesn’t remember when she fed him last. As a result he’s very obese and has developed a cough.
We visit her every day and only take up a certain amount of dog food to try and control what she’s feeding him and even her carers have tried to control what she gives him but it hasn’t worked. She will not stop feeding him human and dog food.
We feel that she will go down hill if we take the dog away, as he is like her baby, but I know it’s unfair on the dog. I walk him a couple of times a week but otherwise he rarely goes out. She refuses help from charities specialising in walking dogs for the elderly. He seems generally happy and wags his tail when he sees us but he’s far from healthy.

I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place. What would you do in my position?

(Helen McCartney Designs) #2

Hi Hanna - Mae,

I’m so sorry to hear this. It’s such a cruel heartbreaking disease for both the person living with it and for family members. My wonderful Mum passed away 2 years ago after a long brave battle from this.

I don’t really know what to suggest apart from have you been in touch with the Alzheimer’s Society? They also have a forum which you can go on as well. Maybe someone has been through a similar situation and could advise you.

With this disease, every situation varies from person to person. So frustrating.

edited to say,
Have you taken the dog to the vets at all to check his health ? Is there any way that you could leave the right amount of dog food in containers with the day written on?

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(Louise Grace Jewellery) #3

My gran was like this with her budgies, thankfully they tend not to eat more than their fill but she was forever emptying out their dishes and refilling them.

I can only imagine that maybe changing the dogs food to one thats designed for over weight dogs might help but as you say you can’t monitor what she feeds the dog other than that. I wonder if putting a checklist chart type thing in her kitchen would help. Put it somewhere prominent for her to see every day, she might remember to check it off when she’s fed the dog and then she can see through the day that she has done so. That does rely on her remembering what the chart is for ect though.

It’s a tough one, I hope you find a solution that suits soon

(Helen McCartney Designs) #4

Like Louise says. A checklist would be good, if she can follow it easily. Big and bold maybe?

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(Claire Mead) #5

I think the tubs for each day is a good one. Is there any way she can only have one days left out at a time. I think you should keep the dog as it is something she loves and something familiar to her

(Claire Mead) #6

Perhaps mark on the tubs Mon am and Mon pm.

(Rachel) #7

Hi - that’s such a hard situation to be in, and some super advice has been offered in addition you could contact her vet and buy in special diet food it will appear to be the same volume but will have empty calories in such as a higher veg content, the same with treats - there is now a range of rice based treats that are much less in calories?

I hope you find the solution to the issue.

(Roz) #8

It depends really on how advance the dementia is - a check list is a good idea but why not give her one with ticks already on it and then you can just feed the dog when you visit - that way she won’t have to remember to tick it.

If things are more advanced have you considered finding something that she could transfer her affections to, like a large cuddly toy dog and then you could remove the dog for periods of time, gradually lengthening them until you remove it altogether. My mother had dementia and when her cats passed away she took to a large stuffed owl that she “fed” regularly and looked after quite happily.

It is a cruel decease and sadly things will only get more difficult. I wish you all the best with it.

(Eileens Craft Studio) #9

I would certiantly change the dog food for a diet dog food that way if she over feeds the dog it’s not taking in as many calories as he would if he was eating his normal doggie food.

The big chart idea might work for a while but it would mean her carers will have to keep referring to it and reminding her and making sure she ticks it off when she’s fed the dog and if they see her about to feed the dog a second time refer her to the chart.

Can you get the dog out for walks more often, get her to play fetch games with the dog every day? I bet they’ll both have fun doing that together as she can sit in a chair and roll a small soft ball along the floor for the dog to bring back. That’s if the dog knows the ‘Fetch’ game.

Is there the option of the dog spending a few hours every day with you so less time for snack feeding and more time for excerise or will that mean she’ll get confused and be looking for the dog?

(Claire Mead) #10

My gran had no short term memory at all in her last years but she remembered things from the past. Her cat was one of those and gave her huge comfort as it must be very lonely. If familiar things were moved she became very confused. I think her cat helped her.

(Hanna-Mae Williams) #11

We’ve replaced the food with diet dog food and only leave a certain amount of treats each day. I think the real problem is she feeds him human food. Whenever she eats she gives him a good third of her portion. He’s a cocker spaniel and is probably more than twice the size he is supposed to be.
She has no concept of days or time, even though we have bought her a special alzheimer’s clock, so we have long since given up on trying with calendars etc.

I’m almost too afraid to take him to the vets as I think the cough is a sign of something more sinister. I’ve tried walking him more often but it doesn’t seem to make a significant difference.
I’ve mentioned it to other family members in the hope of some support but they tell me if I take him to the vets he’s likely to be put to sleep. I worry about his welfare but also this family member’s. I do think that if we took the dog off her she would forget, but the rest of the family think it’s a bad idea and want nothing to do with the dog.
In a way I almost wish her carers would contact the RSPCA, as I feel so responsible for both her and the dog.

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(Rachel) #12

Please dont be scared to contact the vets, if your cocker is that overweight and under exercised the cough could be something simple like an infection or kennel cough (which can be treated easily)
There are specialised cocker rescue organisations that will take him and probably foster him out to someone with breed experience. I know this as I have Dave Springer Spaniel who is so full of cancer that he was not expected to live past last August - he will stay with me till the end of his life and I have the rescue support to maintain his health (to the best of his ability)
You wont be judged if you go down this route - nor will he be put down if he can maintain a quality of life.
I know its such a hard decision but maybe removing the cocker will be best for all - and if she misses him too much get in touch with your local PAT pets who will visit her with dogs she can pet.

You are doing the right thing - its just difficult to make a life changing decision. Rachel

(Helen McCartney Designs) #13

Rachel has given absolutely wonderful advice.

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(Louise Grace Jewellery) #14

We did this with my gran too, a bear called cuddles which we ended up burying with her as she loved it so much. This is a fab idea

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(Louise Grace Jewellery) #15

I really feel for you, it’s a tough situation to be in.

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(Eileens Craft Studio) #16

As the dog has a cough you must take him to the vet so it can get the correct treatment.

(Hanna-Mae Williams) #17

thank you everyone, I really appreciate your advice. I think after Christmas I will get the ball rolling. It’s just so heart breaking…you want what’s best for both.

Thanks again everyone

(Helen McCartney Designs) #18

That’s great to hear Hannah - Mae.

At the end of the day you’ve got to think if your family member was well, what would she want to do about the dog’s cough? I’m sure she would go to the vets as she wouldn’t want him to suffer in any way.
I should think that she would be very thankful to you that you are so concerned about her and the welfare of the dog.

Sadly there will come a point when she probably won’t be able to cope on her own.
It’s a tragic cruel disease.

Wishing you the best of luck.


(Iguana49) #19

Maybe as a first step to removing the dog completely you could say that he is unwell (as I guess he must be by now if he’s so huge) and that he needs some medical treatment for a couple of weeks. Then you could take the dog for a while and see how she reacts. Your relatives might be more willing to agree to this way of doing things.

(Samantha Stanley) #20

I’ve been moved to make a reply here as although I’m not a medical professional my parents both are. This situation is actually quite serious for your Nan and her dog. From what you say, she is so attached to the dog that she will not allow a stranger to walk him (this is perfectly understandable for somebody with dementure) and she feeds him human food probably because he is her constant companion and it makes her feel better to be sharing with him. This also makes a lot of sense. However, if the dog passes, she will find his loss unbearable and this will not improve her health.

I wonder if there is some way you can get a vet to visit the dog at home so that she does not have to be parted from him. It needs to be done, because if the dog is going to die, you and her carers will need to make preparations for how you handle your Nan around this issue. You don’t want this to take you by surprise.

I feel so sorry for you all-what tangled webs we all weave!

Love Sam x