A GROUND-BREAKING project which helps Glaswegians who are living with dementia has been trialling innovative new ways of working during the pandemic.

Dementia Dog, a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and UK-wide charity Dogs for Good, uses specially trained dogs to help people with dementia and their carers.

When the country went into lockdown, the project had to find new ways to work with its clients to help them stay connected and reduce social isolation.

It came up with an array of new plans, including virtual therapy walks, online Doggy Bingo and physiotherapy sessions.

Carla Haizelden, a Dementia Community Dog handler alongside pup Billy, said: “Doggy Bingo is very straightforward and easy to play. The players can watch Billy go and fetch a ball with a random number on it from a container. He passes it to me and I read out the number.

“Although the dogs are all very well trained we do allow them to have their own personality so it’s only natural that they sometimes get distracted and go off.

“There have been times during a game when Billy walks off to get my slippers or a toy instead of a bingo ball and that always gives everyone a bit of a laugh.

“He also gets impatient and whines when I’m talking too much because he wants to get on with the playing game and pick the numbers.”

Virtual Dog Bingo sessions take place through video calls with existing Alzheimer Scotland dementia support groups at Bridgeton Cross.

So far they have delivered 70 group sessions and, as restrictions look set to continue into the new year, they’re planning to train a pool of pets and ­volunteers to help carry out the events.

Donna Paterson, dementia advisor at Alzheimer Scotland, said: “The feedback for the online bingo has been incredibly positive, participants can’t wait for the next session, they want to know when it is and they love the fact that it’s the dog that picks the bingo balls.

“They’re quite a competitive bunch and they’re really enjoying the banter online – it’s been a highlight for them and us and a real boost of positivity in the day.”

The service also offers virtual dog walks which connect a dog handler and their pet with a person with dementia and their carer using a secure video link via NHS attend anywhere.

People just need a smartphone or a tablet to take part.

Carla added: “Because we’re all staying home more at the moment, we found that some of our clients were finding the lack of routine and cognitive stimulation a real struggle and that’s where the virtual dog walks come in.”

For more information, visit Alzheimer Scotland’s website.