Alzheimer’s disease affects many senior citizens and can be hard for both the patient and their caregiver to deal with, especially as the disease progresses. Researchers have found a new type of therapy called doll therapy that can be very beneficial for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to engage in. We at Carefect Home Care Services would like to offer some information about doll therapy for family caregivers who are interested in trying this therapy with their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Doll therapy involves providing a lifelike doll to a person with Alzheimer’s disease so that they can take care of it and play with it. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, many of those with the disease begin to lose interest in things around them and begin to withdraw from daily activities. When provided with a doll to take care of, many Alzheimer’s patients take to the doll because their nurturing instincts kick in and motivate them to play with the doll which helps keep the Alzheimer’s patient from being withdrawn from their surroundings. Doll therapy is usually more effective in women as women are generally considered to be more nurturing than men, but it can also be effective in men as well and should not be ruled out for male patients. If necessary, you can use a teddy bear or stuffed animal instead of an actual doll, but research shows that the more lifelike the doll is, the more successive the doll therapy will be. Many sources suggest that family caregivers should not give the doll directly to their loved one because that will make them feel anxious as they will feel like they are obligated to take care of it. Instead of giving the doll directly to the patient, you can try lying it down somewhere for them to find. If they are interested in it, they will pick it up on their own and begin to nurture it by trying to play with it.
When it comes to the timing of doll therapy, it is best to introduce the doll to your loved one while they are still in the early stages of their disease since this is when they will be the most connected to the world around them so they will be more likely to take to the doll at this stage. Many patients have a harder time connecting with the doll if they are in the later stages of the disease because they have become too disconnected from their surroundings to show interest in the doll. If the doll is introduced early on, the person with Alzheimer’s will have a much greater chance of connecting with the doll and will already be accustomed to the doll as their disease progresses. Early on, Alzheimer’s patients tend to enjoy playing with their doll and changing its clothing. As their disease progresses, they might have a harder time dressing the doll and will switch to singing and talking to the doll. It is also possible that the patient might start to forget the doll’s name, but they still tend to enjoy carrying the doll around with them.
Doll therapy provides many benefits for Alzheimer’s patients that engage in it. One of the most important benefits of doll therapy is that it provides Alzheimer’s patients with social interaction and allows them to have the chance to care for someone again instead of just being the person that is being taken care of. Many seniors are calmed by their doll and it can often create a distraction for them from upsetting events. Having a baby doll often reminds Alzheimer’s patients of fond memories of when they were a new parent which can have a very positive effect on them. Many seniors will enjoy rocking their baby doll which can also help them fall asleep if they have trouble sleeping themselves. Family caregivers looking for activities for their loved one can try purchasing baby doll clothes or even actual baby clothes for their loved one to put on the doll. Many of the lifelike dolls are big enough to fit in newborn clothing, so family caregivers can purchase a few outfits for their loved ones to put on their doll. Family caregivers can even consider buying a stroller for the doll so that their loved one can push it around the house and get some exercise while playing with their doll. Many seniors enjoy singing to their doll, so family caregivers can join in or encourage their loved ones to sing on a regular basis. The most important thing though is to make sure that all family members are educated on doll therapy. Many people may find it odd to see their elderly loved one playing with a doll, especially if they were not educated on the way doll therapy works and the benefits of such therapy for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Related article in our home care blog:
- Reminiscence Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease
- The Benefits of Aromatherapy for Seniors
- For Alzheimer’s Patients: Using Art When Words No Longer Work
- Laughter Therapy for Seniors
- The Benefits of Music Therapy for Seniors with Alzheimer’s