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Evaluating “Baby Doll Therapy” for Alzheimer’s Patients

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 17 November 2009

Old-fashioned dollBaby doll therapy is something that I’ve never been too sure about. During my senior living days, I observed many Alzheimer’s patients hugging, rocking, burping, or carrying a baby doll throughout the halls of the memory-impaired unit. In a way, it seemed to soothe the person. The doll provided someone, something to care for, and I’m sure it reminded the person of precious memories from the early days of parenthood (maybe even as early as the days of their own childhood, being rocked by their mother or father). So I can’t say I’m opposed to the idea – if it brings comfort or joy to the person whose memories are quickly escaping them in the fog of Alzheimer’s, then by all means encourage it. On the other hand, I do think that the facility staff must be aware of this therapy and educate themselves accordingly, which also means unit staff should carefully select the dolls available for use, provide appropriate accessories, and replace dolls when they are worn out or dirty.

It seemed that many of the relatives and friends who visited the unit were somewhat disturbed or distressed if their loved one was seen carrying a baby doll. Again, education in the form of communication from unit staff would be helpful – perhaps if families knew the benefits, they would be more comfortable with the idea. Let’s face it -precious little about the Alzheimer’s journey is comfortable, so it requires a great deal of evaluation/re-evaluation, and above all, flexibility and openness from those who are along for the wild ride. Family and friends must also remember that their loved one is suffering from a disease; behaviors like playing with a baby doll are not exactly normal at an advanced age, but it is not a result of senility or “falling off the rocker.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Store website, where you can order a variety of these dolls, baby doll therapy offers many benefits:

“A baby doll can…

  • Calm someone who is upset;
  • Provide endless hours of hugs and smiles;
  • Lull a person to sleep;
  • Create a distraction from a dangerous, harmful or upsetting event;
  • Serve as an attention-getter;
  • Provide a tool for social interaction;
  • Regenerate warm, nurturing feelings of once again caring for a young child;
  • Make it possible for someone, totally dependent upon others, to care for ‘someone’ else.”

To order a baby doll or find out more about other unique products for persons with Alzheimer’s or some other form of memory loss, visit http://www.alzstore.com/index.html.

SFL readers, what do you think about baby doll therapy?Share your thoughts here!

- Michelle Seitzer

There are 4 Comments about this post

  1. I have had the same question with mixed thoughts until recently. I am researching nursing theories and decided to apply Kolcaba’s theory of Comfort to this issue. My mother is in her 12th year of dementia. She is moving past the middle stages. Lately she has taken to carrying around a stuffed camel. Who knows why?!, but it seems to provide comfort for her. So I decided to purchase a baby doll for her. This is my mother’s response to that research question: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp8aKaWN7EI

     

    on 25 March 2011 / 3:14 PM

     
  2. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Robin, and for sharing your personal experience with this therapy. The YouTube video was fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing it. I love how she answered the questions so honestly and she seems so relaxed and natural with the baby…really beautifully done.

     

    on 27 March 2011 / 2:03 PM

     
  3. Antonette says,

    I wasn’t able to log onto website given. Any suggestions

     

    on 11 May 2013 / 5:49 PM

     
  4. Michelle says,

    My apologies, Antonette. Try this: http://www.alzstore.com.

     

    on 13 May 2013 / 9:19 AM

     
 

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