Doll therapy is one way Alzheimer’s disease caregivers try to ease anxiety and bring joy to loved ones with dementia. Many caregivers have found doll therapy to be a good way to engage loved ones while giving them a purposeful and rewarding activity.
Watching parents and loved ones with dementia slowly fade away is heartbreaking, but the use of doll therapy is emerging as a powerful way to put a sparkle back in patients’ eyes by giving them something to care about and hold close.
Some may find the thought of a family member or patient caring for an inanimate object disconcerting or demeaning.
But health professionals have found when used appropriately, the therapy can boost patients’ animation and communication and also work as a non-pharmacological intervention to manage anxiety, aggression and other behavioural disorders exhibited by 60-90 per cent of dementia sufferers.
I gave my dear Mother one of the dolls from “doll therapy” just a few months before we had to put her into full time care. The doll is the love of her life. It is the only thing she feels safe and comfort from and with. It is the only thing that she is able to talk to freely and love and nurture. She believes she is the doll’s grandmother and that the doll is real. She carries it everywhere with her and it’s beautiful to see that even though she is in the penultimate stage of vascular dementia, she is still able to display the loving and nurturing part of her nature that we all had the joy of receiving over her many years.
One of Oxley Home Care’s dementia clients Betty, lives in with her daughter Jane and was withdrawn and would hardly talk before she formed a bond with her doll David. The Care Manager discussed the doll therapy with Jane and they decided to see what would happen.
Betty took to the doll immediately. “When she is with David, she will talk about her son David, whereas at other times she won’t speak or may not remember any of our names or who we are,” said Jane. Betty would get agitated and distressed and this upset the rest of the family but when the doll was brought to her she always calmed down.
“One time when we had some family friend over Betty began to pace and wouldn’t sit still, so we brought the doll over in a toy stroller, as soon as it was there she was calm the whole way through, every now and again reaching down to pat it on the head.”
Another Oxley Home Care’s client also lives with her daughter Mary. “My mother has Parkinson/Dementia and when she moved into our family home, she picked up my daughter’s baby doll. She took to a doll like you would not believe. She cuddles with it, sings to it, and dresses it. She had 6 children and 14 grandchildren and caring for children was a majority of her life. When I first saw her with these dolls I was shocked. But the Care Manager from Oxley Home Care told me that it was normal for someone with Dementia. It took a while for me to get used to it, but in time I saw how it made her feel happy and she felt that she has a purpose and something to care for again. I would recommend this type of therapy to anyone who has dementia as I can see firsthand how this calms them and comforts them”
While there are many sites that have a lot of information on this particular type of therapy, click here for one in particular that we found quite helpful.