Can Lifelike Dolls Help People With Dementia?


There are many new therapies around for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to help them stay in the present as much as they can, and helps them stay interactive. Most of the time clinics utilize music and art therapies, and games for the brain’s ability to maintain critical thinking and reasoning. However, clinics are beginning to utilize one of the newer therapies that are meant to help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients is doll therapy.

What Is Doll Therapy?

Doll therapy is a new technique to help patients living with these conditions stay connected, reduce anxiety, and reduce the need for medication that has many other side effects that can cause other problems. Although doll therapy is relatively new there are early signs that doll therapy is effective in dementia care. In fact, even though not much research has been conducted to determine the extent of its effectiveness, some research has indicated that doll therapy has actually helped to decrease the need for patients to rely on medication for anxiety as it helps reduce anxiety. Doll therapy for seniors with these conditions has also been shown to help improve communication.

However, there are ways to introduce doll therapies to seniors that have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The Steps To Take To Introduce Doll Therapy To Senior Patients

There are steps to take in order to properly introduce this form of therapy to the patients. The first step is to allow the senior to warm up to the doll by casually introducing it to them slowly. If the senior does not show interest, then do not force them.

However, if the senior is showing interest in the doll, then never act like that the doll is only just that – a doll. Let the senior know it is no different from a baby that needs to be treasured. This way, the senior will see that if the doll is treated the same way as a baby or a living being, then the patient will treat the doll the same way which is what care providers would want.

However, when it comes to the seniors that do not show interest in the doll, don’t give up. Try again in a few weeks or in a month. Some seniors may never warm up to the doll and will continue to do better with traditional forms of therapy, but others might.

And now let’s go into more detail of how doll therapy can be helpful to seniors that have dementia or Alzheimer’s by delving into the pros of therapy that involves life-like dolls:

The Pros Of Doll Therapy

There are many advantages to doll therapy for seniors. And again, the objective by utilizing this new technique to help patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s is by helping to reduce their anxiety and improve their social interaction, and communication. There are other benefits as well and they are:

  • Cuddling the dolls is soothing to the patient. It is similar to holding and cuddling a stuffed animal but the dolls are just as cuddly and soft. The act of cuddling helps reduce anxiety and these patients and helps them feel more connected as isolation and depression are, unfortunately, a big risk of patients that have these conditions.
  • Doll therapy is helpful to seniors by making them feel needed which adds positivity to their lives. If they feel needed then they will feel as if they have a purpose. When anyone feels that they have a purpose regardless of their age and health, they will be happier, more lively, and passionate. This applies as well to those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • This therapy helps to bring back feelings of nostalgia. Seniors that are caring for the dolls will end up having happy memories of parenthood from when they were very young caring for their now middle-aged children as babies. This applies to male and female seniors who are parents, and many of these patients do like to take care of these dolls as if they are their babies. They will rock the doll back and forth and care for it as part of their daily routine.
  • Doll therapy can help improve the overall health of seniors as they will feel more positive overall. This means their appetites improve, they have fewer obsessions, they are less likely to wander, and their moods are better, which men they will be more receptive to care.

However, even though these pros are wonderful and that doll therapy has the potential to help these seniors a lot, there are also disadvantages as well which will be covered:

older man holding granddaughter walking down path

The Cons Of Doll Therapy

Even though the positive effects of doll therapy have been covered as it can help seniors decrease the need for medication for anxiety, there are concerns that care providers have with this new technique. Let’s go over the disadvantages of doll therapy:

  • The dignity of the patient is an issue. Some care providers believe that doll therapy can take away the dignity of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients because they feel that they are being treated like children. Adults that have these cognitive conditions, as well as loss in memory, are not children.
  • The logistics of the doll will be an issue for patients that become attached to them. If the doll is missing and not in the sight of the patients, then they will fear that the doll wandered off. This can trigger a lot of anxiety. They may also be confused as to why the doll sleeps with its eyes open as well which can also induce anxiety that can defeat the purpose. if the doll breaks, that will be very upsetting to the patient.
  • Dolls that cry will trigger anxiety in seniors. That means when using a doll for therapy, to always get ones that do not cry.
  • Patients can be misled into believing that the doll is a living being. It is extremely important for care providers that want to utilize this form of therapy to make it clear to the patient that the doll is not a real baby but must be treated as if it is. The way the doll is presented to the patient is very important.

However, there are pros and cons to this therapy as there is with everything else in life. And even though there is limited research on how helpful doll therapy is to seniors, there are advantages of this new technique and it has already shown that the anxiety levels of these patients do decrease. More research done in time will reveal a lot more about how helpful this form of therapy is to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. 

References

Team SafeSleep

Hi! We're a team of scientists, doctors, teachers, and coaches experienced in helping people with special needs. We hope you like our research and share it with others who might find it helpful too :)

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