An Ohio man and his 92-year-old grandmother decided to visit people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to help brighten their holiday.
Ross Smith and his grandmother- “Granny” have visited four different senior living facilities around Ohio along with a very special gift: puppies.
Smith and Granny have been producing funny videos together five years ago. The pair are “best friends” since they started creating videos together. Smith said “We’re just trying to spread as much positivity as we can… it makes us happy, too.”
This year, they are using their comedy talents and puppies to brighten the holiday for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
About 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s with the risk increasing with age. Smith says that his own grandmother is not affected by it, but still he thought it was the perfect cause for the duo to focus on.
“It was time for me to to come up with an idea to use this voice we have and to give back,” Smith said. “A lot of people were reaching out and saying they can’t speak to their grandma and grandpa anymore because they have dementia, and they live vicariously through us.” Smith said this inspired their visit to the senior living facilities.
He further added that people there responded very well to the puppies. “What I learned is people who are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, they aren’t receptive much,” he said. “But with animals and music, they really have old memories come back and hit them hard.”
“So, when I go into these rooms and I speak to people … you can tell they’ve been affected by this disease. But when you give them a puppy, it’s like radio silence and they’re so focused. It’s like night and day.”
The puppies were lent to Smith and Granny by Petland, a local pet store in Lewis Center, Ohio.
They walked into the senior facilities on the Monday before Thanksgiving, with a bunch of puppies, and the faces of the elderly patients immediately lit up.
Smith released a series of videos he taped there, on Thanksgiving Day and says he wants people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to know they’re not forgotten — especially at the holidays.
“[People] just forget about folks when they’re old,” Smith said. “We want to give all we can to those who might not have families for the holidays or might not have a home or might have a hard time remembering the holidays.”
Smith’s now-viral video shows the patients snuggling up with several different dog breeds. Some of patients were so comfortable with the puppies, they were lulled to sleep.
Granny was also around to perk people up with a joke. “You folks are a perfect match,” she told one woman holding a puppy. “Did you meet on Tinder?” she joked.
“We partnered with a pillow manufacturer in Chicago and we said we’re going to take an exact picture of each puppy and we’re going to make a custom cut-out pillow,” he said. “And we’re going to go give these pillows to people when we leave so they have something to hold on to.”
The puppy pillows were a hit, and his video shows that. Each person was handed a pillow that looked exactly like the dog they were just cuddling.
They are again planning on doing this again throughout the holiday season and then continuing throughout the year. He says that if anyone who wants to help can purchase their own pillow from The Custom Pillow. For every pillow sold, a free one will be given to Smith and Granny’s cause.
“This all started just as a little, small idea to give back and use our platform. Inspire people to do good,” Smith said. “We want people to be remembered and loved all year-round but especially during the holiday season, we want them to feel cared for.”