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Pros and Cons of Doll Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMarch 22, 2017

Doll therapy is one way Alzheimer’s disease caregivers try to ease anxiety and bring joy to loved ones with dementia.

Learn more about how many caregivers have found doll therapy to be a good way to engage loved ones with a purposeful and rewarding activity, while other caregivers and health care providers are hesitant to use the therapy.

How Doll Therapy Can Help Those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

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 lifelike dolls to care for and love. The dolls can become an integral part of a senior’s life, as caring for the doll becomes a major part of their day to day responsibilities. This type of therapy is also said to bring back some happy memories of early parenthood and help make seniors feel needed and useful.

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 in users, with researchers concluding that the therapy is an effective approach in caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Tips for Using Doll Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Consider the following suggestions when introducing a doll to your loved one:

  1. Communicate the purpose of the doll for anyone else who may be providing care.
  2. Do not force a doll on any senior: allow them to approach, hold and be stimulated by the doll on their own time.
  3. Do not call the doll a doll.
  4. Do not purchase a doll that cries out loud, as that could be upsetting.
  5. Provide a bassinet or small crib for the doll.

The Controversial Therapy

Although some caregivers have found success using doll therapy, others are hesitant to use the 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.

Do you think doll therapy is an effective way to treat anxiety and behavioral issues in seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or is it a demeaning and offensive practice? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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