More than 15 years ago, Sandy and Wayne Cambron’s experience with Wayne’s mother Pearl, a suffer of Alzheimer’s Disease, led them a unique discovery. They decided to give Pearl a doll in order to help comfort her. Pearl, who had been severely withdrawn after moving to a nursing home, had an immediate positive response. After trying everything from photo albums to familiar family stories, they found that the doll gave Pearl a feeling that she had something to care for again.

This discovery led the Cambrons to starting a program called “Pearls Memory Babies.” Pearl’s Memory Babies is a nonprofit group that donates therapy dolls to seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Since the 1990s, many nursing homes have been giving their dementia and Alzheimer’s patients dolls as a form of therapy. It has been found that the use of dolls with these patients also eases their anxieties. In some studies, the use of therapy dolls has improved communication and lessened the need for psychotropic drug therapy as well as assisting in reducing agitation, aggression and wandering.

Experts have said that attachment behaviors are instinctive and are triggered by conditions such as separation, insecurity and fears. This can be evidenced by the insecurities often times expressed by dementia patients when they go about in search of a deceased parent. Therapy dolls, also known as Alzheimer Dolls, is a positive way to assist a sufferer out of many such conditions. This therapy has also been used to assist in common conditions including boredom, depression or even agitation by using the doll as a positive communication tool.

Doll therapy, however, is not without its controversy, stating that this type of therapy is demeaning and infantilizes the elderly. However, the use of therapy dolls is not forced upon a patient. Rather, the caregivers generally have them available for the patient to hold and/or dress as a part of their everyday life. Their position is that it is a means of helping the patient to engage in life activities again.

Though the use of therapy dolls is in its early stages, they have been shown to be quite effective in preserving and/or promoting attachment in those who have cognitive, emotional and behavioral difficulties. Most caregivers who work with those who have dementia have reported positive results when using therapy dolls with their patients. For further reading, a good book is Doll Therapy in Dementia Care: Evidence and Practice written by Gary Mitchell, a nurse specialist in Northern Ireland.

Many online shops offer not only dementia dolls but life-like pets as well. One such place is The Alzheimer’s Store []. There they offer robotic pets that have animated features.

Another online store is Ashton Drake [] who offers an 18” “Poseable baby doll for memory care individuals …[with]weighted body and head, RealTouch® vinyl skin, hand-rooted hair.”

Call Missy Donaghy with Interiors for Seniors for a FREE consultation 321-279-3301.

Interiors for Seniors is proud to have been chosen as one of the top 100 moving blogs on the Internet.


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