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. However, other caregivers and health care providers are hesitant to use the therapy. Learn more.
How Doll Therapy Can Help Those with Alzheimer’s
As many as 60-90% of seniors with Alzheimer’s struggle with some form of distress due to the disease.
Some caregivers try to ease the burden by giving loved ones life-like dolls to love and care for. The dolls can become an integral part of a senior’s life and caring for the doll as they would care for a baby becomes a major part of their day to day responsibilities. Doll therapy, also known as cuddle therapy, may bring back some happy memories of early parenthood and help make seniors feel useful and needed.
While most evidence in support of doll therapy is anecdotal, one study completed in 2007 found that it could be used to increase positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors in users and they concluded that such therapy is an effective approach in caring for seniors with dementia.
Tips for Using Doll Therapy
Consider the following suggestions when introducing a doll to your loved one:
- Do not call the doll a doll.
- Provide a bassinet or small crib for the doll.
- Do not purchase a doll that cries out loud, as that could be upsetting.
- Do not force a doll on any senior. Allow them to be stimulated, approach and hold the doll on their own time.
- Communicate the purpose of the doll for any one else who may be providing care.
A Controversial Approach
While some caregivers have found success using doll therapy, others are hesitant to use the unproven therapy. Some families find it upsetting to see their loved ones treated like children, calling doll therapy demeaning and patronizing.
Others find it confusing to see their parent care for a doll and feel it replicates a security blanket, masking behavioral issues rather than facing them head on.
What do you think? Is doll therapy an effective way to treat anxiety and behavioral issues in seniors with dementia, or is it a demeaning and offensive practice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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