Pros and Cons of Doll Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Doll therapy is one way Alzheimer’s disease caregivers try to ease anxiety and bring joy to loved ones with dementia.Pros and Cons of Doll Therapy for Seniors with Alzheimer's

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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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Emily

    I find it disturbing and think it’s probably especially disturbing to co-residents whose dementia may not be as severe. I think pet therapy is more appropriate for most people. I wouldn’t deny baby dolls to anyone who really wants one though.

    • Guest

      Do you enjoy getting lost in fictional books? Do you enjoy watching movies? When you do that you are momentarily switching off from the outside world and playing make believe. Computer games are also make believe. For you to say you find the use of dolls disturbing shows you have little or no empathy. If an Alzheimer’s patient finds comfort in playing with a doll, who on earth are you to judge?

    • linda

      I think its adorable and find joy in seeing someone who’s sick, smile and get so much pleasure from them. While pet therapy is great there’s nothing like tapping into a women’s instinctive nature to nurture and love a baby. In addition, a baby doll can stay with someone unsupervised and can’t be accidentally harmed like a pet. I’m going to try this.

    • Sandy

      Not everyone likes pets…so just because you like pets and think that’s more appropriate, you have to consider the person. My mother “tolerates” pets but is not a pet-lover. The doll, however, has brought her joy. She cuddles with it, talks to it, and loves it like a baby. Since this makes her happy, then so be it. It’s for her, not me, you
      or anyone else.

    • Mrshowell41

      It’s not about wanting a doll. Alzheimer’s patients who are in the stage found most appropriate for doll therapy are not voicing the need for a doll.

    • juanita Baiamonte

      Actually, from my 30 years experience, I see that the other residents whose dementia is not as severe, find it very comforting that the once agitated or nonverbal residents with the dolls are now calm and sometimes even talking! The other residents, even those with mild dementia, are a lot more understanding of the needs of severely impaired residents than some of the family members, It is up to the staff to educate the family members who may be distraught over their parents nurturing a doll or cuddling a stuffed animal. It is a beautiful thing to see residents with dementia find comfort and happiness with a doll, Lifelike baby dolls and stuffed animals that look real are a blessing to the residents who find comfort in them.

  • I like that doll therapy seems to comfort a person with dementia, but I’m against anything that lessens the dignity of a person, and an adult holding a doll might do that. One could argue that the patient isn’t aware that it’s undignified to be cradling a doll, but that’s where the rest of us come in: promoting dignity and quality of life on behalf of the vulnerable.

    • D Harlo

      The thing is, they think the doll is REAL. Nothing about that is lessening the dignity of the person because YOU or I ‘think’ that it is. If it makes them happy and stimulates them, then so be it.

      I cared for my 86 y/o grandfather with this horrible disease and it lasted two horrible years before his death. If I could have given him ANYTHING that made him happy, I would have.

      Just because ‘we’, the ones with ‘some’ cognitive thinking ‘think’ that it is demeaning, that is just us the thinkers over thinking once again…

  • mitzi young

    I think it depends on the individual if they take to OK if not then something else I see no harm in it if it calms them and if its like a security blanket then that’s OK too my mom has moderate Alzheimer’s and at times she does act like a child and they have the mind of a child let it comfort them .

  • Lori

    I have a Mom that’s is Alzheimer’s and the only way I can make my Mom relax and enjoy her stay in the nursing home is by Giving her a Doll that she can think its her Baby, She talks to it and kiss it and has a bed for it and I even bought her a dolls baby bottle that looks like it has milk in it and you put in the dolls mouth and tip it a little bit it empty’s the bottle and reappears after a few second and my mom Is very happy by thinking she fed her baby, so when she goes to bed her baby also goes to bed in a carriage, and my moms sleep very well knowing that her baby is by her side asleep, before I gave her the doll we had a hard time getting my Mom to settle in and want to stay there, And as soon as I gave her the doll she settled in very well , So yes I do think a doll does help people who has Dementia & Alzheimer’s , and other co-residents does not mind other residents having dolls, I go every day to see my Mom and she is very happy and adjusting well to her new living arrangements , and Yes I also agree pet therapy is very good also , That’s my way of helping my Mom That has Alzheimer’s

  • Deena Cummings

    I consider the doll I got for my mother with Alzheimer’s to be the best $10.00 investment I ever made. She loves her doll and it is her constant companion as she is bedridden (on a feeding tube) in a convalescent hospital.

    • Louise Smith

      What a wonderful picture to share. This is such a lovely image and shows the importance of being creative as we help people living with dementia have comfort, peace and a role.

    • A

      I am beginning an organization that brings dolls to Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients and wanted to know if I can use this beautiful example of the peace and comfort, your mom found in her new friend. My email is [email protected] should you want to follow my new adventure or have any information or ideas I can use!

      • Darlyn

        I just did this last week. I gathered up 8 old babydolls with clothes, set them in a basket and took them to my mom’s facility to be used, as I call it, “memory therapy”. The group can play with the dolls, reminisce about the ones they had, what life was like as a young mother, etc. As Alz progresses they bring comfort and a purpose.

  • Venus Biggar

    My best friend now has a doll. It has brought her so much peace. She was always a great mom and the doll, whom she believes is alive, brings back all of her nurturing instincts. What others think doesn’t matter to one with dementia. It is all about feelings, and if a doll produces good feelings then by all means let it be. While it is heartbreaking to watch, but my friend is experiencing calm That is worth everything.

  • Lisa McIntosh

    My mother has Parkinson/Dementia and when she moved into an adult family home they had dolls there. She took to a doll like you would not believe. She cuddles with it, sings to it, and dresses it. She had 6 children and 14 grandchildren and caring for children was a majority of her life. When I first saw her with these dolls I was shocked. But the caregiver told me that it was normal for someone with Dementia. It took a while for me to get use to it, but in time I saw how it made her feel happy and she felt that she has a purpose and something to care for again. She had an anxiety problem and living within this home with these dolls has pretty much curbed her anxiety to almost none. This is very comforting. I would recommend this type of therapy to anyone who has dementia as I can see first hand how this calms them and comforts them.

    • Kat

      I am beginning an organization to raise money to provide dolls to patients with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and would love to use your story. Please contact me at [email protected]

  • Cam D. Schafer

    We gave my mom a doll three months ago and it stopped her wandering

  • EverettWilliams

    I have just been diagnosed with vascular dementia (I still Question) but if it keeps me from cursing and acting vulgar by all means PLEASE give me a doll. As for demeaning, demeaning to whom, the patent, COME ON NOW, they (we?) have dementia, how much MORE demeaning is THAT? Growup this horrable desese isnt about you, it’s about them.

    • Diane Engster, JD

      I don’t find dementia to be demeaning. I think that how we treat people with dementia is demeaning as well as negative attitudes people have about it. Its very sad that you feel that way. There are lots of people in our society in all walks of life and in all stages and ages who have various kinds of disabilities and impairments. This is a natural part of life and all people are worthy of dignity and respect.

    • Angela

      I couldn’t agree more. ?

    • Robin

      I want to reply even though this is an old post. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers but diagnosis changed towards the end (7 yrs) to vascular dementia ( new dr. with hospice) . He never lost command of his brilliant language/vocabulary. He spoke so convincingly even some family members had trouble sorting what was real and what was not. He often combined his actual history with things that never happened but could have !! Some things were more obvious & not realistic) We lived in his world as much as possible but some things were dangerous or impossible to fulfill . Trying to reason with him was futile. He’d forget he needed help walking & would fall.He’d insist on going to the opthamologist repeatedly even though it was a stroke that affected his brain processing what his eyes could see.
      The article says some people think a doll just masks behavior issues that should be met head on. THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE. There is no reasoning , convincing, rational discussion.Even if you could deal with a problem you’d be doing it over & over because everything is quickly forgotten by the person with dementia . To be clear , I’m talking about advanced dementia to the stage that a doll would be a comfort.
      I already love the realistic weighted reborn dolls . Should I be diagnosed with dementia I want the doll – maybe a few of them : )
      Okay – I already have some? BUT if I start thinking they’re real just go along with it . I’m happy .

      • Christine

        They are trying that therapy on my mum but she crys because she say the doll is dead I think she’s relating my niece baby died I’m not sure if that will affect my mum more I would appreciate if anyone came across this therapy and if it’s a bad idea thanks

        • Suzi

          Take that doll away immediately!!!!! If it is causing her distress, then it’s not appropriate or beneficial…

        • tamara

          Is the doll that your mom got with closed eyes? We call this a sleeping baby. If so get her a doll that has opened eyes…that should help.good luck

        • MsAubrie

          I know this is late, but instead of a baby doll, perhaps she would be better with an animal like a bear, cat or dog. My grandmother with dementia is using a teddy bear and she coos and talks with it and takes care of it like a baby. Its beautiful to watch her care for her bear.

      • Walda Woods

        Oh my gosh Robin, I couldn’t agree more. I love it when the medical community puts their personal spin on things, such as when an 80 year old woman is suffering from intense pain. (“We can’t give her pain meds – she might get addicted.”) If they could spend as much time researching this horrible, wretched disease as they do concentrating on the mundane, these beautiful souls would be much better off. Doctors, use your brilliant minds — not your personal speculation!

  • Sylvia Willingham

    I think that if my mother is happy with a doll, that is the most important thing, is dignity about us or about them, shouldn’t it be about them, if they are clean and feed and taken care of isn’t that the most important thing, what does a doll have to do with Dignity, being taken care of and being loved, that is where dignity is, someone loving you enough to want what is best for you and not how you look to others because your mother has a doll, these people have to be first, they gave up so much for us, that we need to get away from what we think and think about what is best for them and what makes them happy.

  • jane bromwich

    My mum sadly died two plus years ago. She lived in an amazing care home the manager of which provided dolls for the residents who wanted one. My mum had a cabbage patch type little girl she won at bingo. It was truely wonderful to see her loving that little girlie, kissing it goodbye when she went out, tucking it up in bed and just generally caring for her. Mum also had some soft toys that she cuddled that we had given her. I also saw other residents behaviour settle as this activity gave them a purpose. If I have Dementia in the future I hope I am fortunate enough to receive such excellent care and therapy.

  • D Harlo

    The thing is, they think the doll is REAL. Nothing about that is
    lessening the dignity of the person because YOU or I ‘think’ that it is.
    If it makes them happy and stimulates them, then so be it.

    I cared for my 86 y/o grandfather with this horrible disease and it lasted
    two horrible years before his death. If I could have given him ANYTHING
    that made him happy, I would have.

    Just because ‘we’, the ones
    with ‘some’ cognitive thinking ‘think’ that it is demeaning, that is
    just us, the “super smart know it all” thinkers, over thinking once again…

    If it stimulates and makes them happy, if it gives some some form of peace in their final years, who the hell are WE to say that it is demeaning?

  • Valerie

    The problem with “facing [the issues] head on” is that there IS NO fixing Alzheimer’s dementia. What are we to face? That our loved one is suffering? We already know that. If a doll will provide my mother with any comfort at all, she deserves that. It doesn’t matter if it upsets anyone else. This is about HER, as she is the one who is dying.

  • Debbie

    I am a Activity Director I care for a wide range of patients with alzheimers at diffrent stages of the disease. Dolls do more than just provide comfort the decrease the use of anti psychotics and falls. Some seniors will talk to there baby when they won’t remember how to talk to you. I am a fan of Doll Therepy as well as music for alzheimers patients imagine if you rub a little baby lotion scent on your doll and play a cd of nursery rhymes while they hold the doll the total calm that they experience. Best wishes caregivers remember to eat right get plenty of rest and take breaks for yourselves as well.

    • Kat

      I am beginning an organization to raise money to provide dolls to patients with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and would love to hear your story, ideas and experience. Please contact me at [email protected]

  • Julie Walquist-Huff

    I was restoring a Biddy Baby doll when my mom found it. She was, at that point, dealing with moderate dementia. She walked around with the doll in her arms for days. She just held it like a security blanket. It upset my brother and he told me not to let her have it. Now she’s mostly bedridden, if a doll brings her comfort – damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. I’m going to see if she’ll respond to a doll. It seems like it upsets the on-lookers, and not those who have the illness. EverettWilliams, my prayers are with you. My mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia five years ago. She is non-combative, she is content, she is full of grace. May you have all you need, body soul, and spirit, as you continue this journey.

    • Guest

      It’s wonderful that your mother can enjoy the doll. Ask your brother if he plays computer games? And if he does, do they bring him comfort and relaxation by allowing him to get lost in a fantasy world? His dear mother is using the same tool!

    • Kat

      I am beginning an organization to raise money to provide dolls to patients with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and would love to hear your story, ideas and experience. Please contact me at [email protected]

  • Cassandra Hattley

    I just started my first senior living job and they have a separate ward for Alzheimer’s and was kinda shocked when I saw dolls and toddler toys. I think it’s great just wasn’t expecting them.

  • Bj brewer

    We just gave my mom a doll and she for the first time in a long time used her hands beside eating she fixed her babies hair she burped her she held her up to look out window she wrapped her up under her sweater and she talked to her I have mixed feelings watching my mom with this doll but I’m thinking that maybe she felt a sense of someone needed her again

    • caitlinburm

      Hi BJ,

      Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us about your mother.

      We are happy to hear about one of the pros of doll therapy for Alzheimer’s, and are wishing you and your family the best during this time.

  • Hope Jenkins

    I think anything that calms and offers something the person can turn to to feel they are a part of the living world is a wonderful thing. It is more demeaning to walk around thinking you don’t matter anymore, and knowing something is wrong, but you don’t understand what, and to feel like no one comes around so they don’t care about you. If a doll gives a person a sense of well being and usefulness, that is a wonderful thing! If it somehow lessens confusion, and returns them to a happier time, what the heck is demeaning about that? AND they are like children, and we have to find a way to allow them to still be an adult, while living with a disease that turns them into a child again. If I thought for one moment my mother would respond to a doll, and would really love it (which she loves babies by nature anyway, she had 7 children and countless grand, great grand, and great great grand children) I would order her one today, and I am seriously thinking about it.

  • caring1

    In my work I have seen such positive behaviors for women that I’ve witnessed with dolls so far. The dolls are carried and spoken too and treated with such love. The interaction is on the disease stricken person’s own level of understanding and they have considerable ‘control’ in this way whereas in most other areas most especially persons in later stages have as I’ve witnessed lost control in most areas.

  • JenB

    We just purchased a baby doll for my mother-in-law. It arrived from Amazon today. We got her a realistic looking boy baby, because every single day she freaks out about where her baby Chris, my husband, is. We are giving it to her tomorrow. The brother is mad and thinks we are “idiots for buying into the doll therapy” and we “might as well put her in the mental ward where they can’t speak and drool all over themselves.” I have spent many hours researching the doll therapy and I hope this provides her some comfort. After reading these comments, I am definitely more hopeful. I also think the relatives who are disturbed by the doll therapy need to stop thinking about themselves and their discomfort and start thinking about their relative suffering from dementia or Alzheimers.

    • caitlinburm

      We couldn’t agree with you more, Jen. Please share with us how your mother-in-law interacts with the doll, if you have the opportunity. We will be thinking of you and your family and wishing you all the best during this time.

    • KESU

      How did she do? I hope it helped.

    • Vicky

      Your brother in-law is behaving insensitively. When you’re young, it’s difficult to understand what an elderly person’s life, including one in a nursing home suffering from Dementia can be like. My mother is in the first stages of Dementia. She has her good days and bad. She isn’t at all violent or nasty, but she is bitter and at times becomes upset that I put her in a nursing home. It wasn’t like that though. When she went to the hospital because of a vascular problem with her legs, in which they were significantly swelled that she couldn’t stand up, she ended up in the hospital for about 2 weeks. She was then transferred to a nursing home for rehab. This has happened to her on numerous occasions but this last one was the worst. Doctors and nurses said that she wasn’t capable of caring for herself anymore and was in the first stages of Dementia. I knew mom couldn’t properly care for herself for sometime and we both wanted to avoid a nursing home if at all possible, but it soon became evident that she couldn’t go on the way she was and I couldn’t care for her 24/7, nor did her insurance cover round the clock care. I then had to make a decision that I knew mom wouldn’t like. I had her transferred to another nursing home because the one she was first in was not adequate or organized. She is getting the care that she needs and I feel I did the right thing. She can’t get to the bathroom on her own, but she has tried several times, resulting in a fall at least twice.

      Nursing homes are not without their flaws, but I feel I’ve chose the best I could find for mom. She tells me almost everyday how much she wants to get out and get her own apartment, but I know she’d never be able to even get around or could make decisions for herself. She gets confused at times and forgets things but that is normal considering she is 90 and has Dementia. I try to find ways to make her as happy as I can. Visiting her often, including a friend from her previous apartment really helps. Mom doesn’t want to eat in the nursing home dining room or get involved in any activities. The only thing she does is watch TV and complains how bored she is. I’ve recently purchased a simple jigsaw puzzle and a memory game for her that we’ll do together. I don’t know how long mom we’ll be around so I want to make her stay as pleasant as possible. Not so easy but I’m trying.

  • Lee

    There are also cons with this therapy, as they believe the doll is real they can also imagine it crying and this can be distressing and give an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

  • Cathie

    Personally, it doesn’t matter what I think about it, if it gives my mother some comfort and eases her anxiety and agitation, I’m all for it. I hope it does provide a security blanket for her, where’s the harm in that??? And face the problems head on??? With more drugs??? I have faced every single problem we have faced head on for the last 15 years and if this works, who am I or anyone else to question it?? I don’t need research, the evidence that I’ve seen in the comments below convince me. Got a little video today on facebook that a friend posted. Had never heard of doll therapy so I’m looking into it for my mom and it looks great. If it doesn’t work so be it, but as she is in the very late stages of Alzheimer’s, and the only thing she can do for herself is breathe, I’m willing to try anything that will give her some comfort and peace of mind and a bit of quality in her life. Many residents in her long term care home have stuffed animals and cuddle them and pet them and they’re always smiling when they’re doing that. Thanks for the information, whether it works or not it will be the best money I’ve spent trying to make her life better.

  • Cindy

    My mother in law still has some recognition of her family but cannot take care of her ADL’s and has sitters around the clock. Although she can still carry on some meaningful conversation she is very Lonley and feels useless. She has been begging for a puppy for a year now and her girls refuse her to have a pet.
    She and I have talked about the doll and she says she would love it. We have one in order and very grateful to find all of your comments and comfort and will share with her girls once the doll comes in.
    The remain in denial, but my husband and I see the comfort our puppies give her when she is with us.
    She will care for them in her lap and the focus it gives her is amazing. She can carry on a conversation about the care and safety she is giving the puppy. She is so sad ea h time we bring her home and she can’t bring a puppy with her.
    I am praying the doll brings her the same focus and peace the puppy does.
    Thoughts are welcome in giving the doll before all loss of recognition…….

  • Jane

    I have never heard of this, but my mother recently spent a night in hospital and on the spur of the moment my dad took a small teddy with him when he visited. She has become very attached to it and carries it around, kisses it and sits it beside her. We love that she is happy when it is close to her. Maybe this is similar to doll therapy. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s around 2 years ago and before that Vascular Dementia.

  • LJ

    Caring for my 95 year old mother with dementia is hard, until her 8 month old great granddaughter comes. I keep her as well Monday through Friday while her parents work and see a significant change in moms attitude. The stroke mom had in Dec 2015 left her with little cognitive skills, especially in speech. But when talking to the baby we can understand everything she says. When the baby leaves around 5, she gets quite and we can’t understand much of what she says. So yes, Baby therapy works for her. I never leave her alone with the baby, but she holds her in her lap for short periods of time. We have discussed getting her a doll for the times that the baby is not here. Mother took care of most of her grandchildren and great grandchildren because she didn’t want them put with strangers. So I think that part of her is still there. I think also that the doll therapy would work for some but not for all. And you adults that think this is degrading, think again.

  • crabjack

    I found one of the best selections of therapy dolls at

    • Janet

      Whoa! They are expensive aren’t they, but beautiful. I’m sure some can be less expensive. I have 3 cabbage patch dolls. Someone mention their mother love a cabbage patch doll.

  • BobH137

    Any conceivable thing on God’s Green Earth that may bring even a briefest moment of peace, can not be a bad thing!

  • Dianne Briggs

    The place my mother was in kept calling me, telling me my mom was going from room to room looking for grand babies. I thought “what the heck” and I ran by a store and bought her a baby doll. I told the nurses to give it to her the next time she looked for babies.

    She loves her baby!! (She told me she thought he would start walking soon) She’s not sure where he came from but she seems really happy. I get some reports where she gets mad because someone “dumped” the baby on her so they could go out and have a good time, but all in all I think it worked!!

  • Mandy Boo

    I’m about to start making reborn baby dolls for our local hospital. I have D.I.D Dissociative Identity Disorder which also means having a fractured memory so I have a HUGE understanding of what and how much doll therapy helps. For a lot of dementia patients something that feels comforting, safe, loveable and that you can hold and touch is huge. When your brain isn’t as it could be or expected to be then anything that helps you to feel safe and keeps you grounded is HUGE. {I don’t expect people to understand this but I found that having a doll keeps my little ones safe and grounded, the 10 year old, now, says “it helps her feel safe and remember where she is, and not back there in the bad place” when she was 10yrs old as a child in the body.}

    Something the brain does in D.I.D is that it has learnt to shut down on trauma like it has gone to sleep, this is actually a survival mechanism of the brain, in a way a dementia patients brain is slowly going to sleep. Shutting down is the brains way of coping and just as everyone brain needs sleep, our brains need to shut down to recharge at night. It makes sense to me why the brain goes into regression also. Regressing in age seems to be apparent in some dementia patients and in D.I.D you’re already at that point from an early age. Most fully functioning adults, even working adults with D.I.D, have younger parts that need to feel safe and have dolls, teddies etc in their private lives because their child memories, abilities, thoughts and feelings have been stored and locked into place at an early age and then that part of you becomes active at times over and throughout the days/nights in general, throughout your life. Regressing in dementia to me seems similar and the needs seem similar. I’m no expert I just see what I see. Some families struggle with the regressive changes in their ‘adult’ with dementia but if they can’t understand that these changes bring new needs in their loved ones lives then it’s their problem not the patient, the patient should still have the right to feel safe while their brain is slowly changing on them, it’s frightening enough for them as they lose their independence and control, I KNOW what this is like, I have witnessed this in elderly friends in the early stages of dementia and I have experienced this personally with having D.I.D. If doll therapy is only a problem to onlooking family members and not the patient then I would be putting the patients needs first. Having a brain injury or issue is not easy in a world where you are expected to be ‘normal’.

    There is no normal, only levels of “this is how you are” at your age/stage of life, physically, mentally, emotionally and intellectually.

    • Kat

      I am beginning an organization to raise money to provide dolls to patients with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and would love to hear your story, ideas and experience. Please contact me at [email protected].

  • crabjack

    Realistic therapy dolls can be expensive. Dolls in a broad range of prices can be seen at, including some of the most realistic and remarkably detailed dolls you will ever see.

  • Janet

    My mom had a stroke a year ago. It affected her memory, her ability to read or write. She read everyday, did crossword puzzles, played her organ, and wrote. She was almost finished with her 7th song- music & lyrics. She lost all of that. She could walk and such.
    When she was in the ER still being evaluated, my brother went to the gift shop. He found a very soft cuddly bear. He thought it was silly at the time, she became attached to that bear. When she she took her nap or went to bed, she wasn’t settled until she had “kiddo” up next to her chin with her arm around it. It was the neatest thing to watch. If it brings peace & comfort to a person, no one should knock it. It is bringing joy to people who have little joy in their life. And that’s our job.

  • Maridine

    Lots of good input here. My Mother-in-law was always pulling at her clothes or her hands, sometimes injuring herself. Was given a very small teddy bear she could hold. Don’t know if she even thought of it as a teddy bear, but she held it tightly and it kept her from damaging her skin.

  • Heather May Cain

    my husband has just seen a picture of his dad with a doll in the home that he is in and he is really upset. he feels really uncomfortable with it, as his dad would never have done anything like that before he got dementia

  • Jeanie Haines

    Many years ago when my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s she one of her greatest anxieties was that she was always looking for her baby . This was heart breaking for loved ones at the time and I think that this new doll therapy is wonderful for those that it brings comfort to .

  • Debra Walker

    My mom has dementia. I am curious about the doll therapy, but my mom was raped which is where I cam from. I am afraid it would bring back horrific memories that could do more harm than good.

  • G Tony Jacobs

    I’ve read the comments, and everyone is reporting very good results from doll therapy. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 6 years ago, and she has had access to dolls for the last year or two. My only issue with it is that, when she’s with her doll, she’s so attached to it that it can be difficult to get her to change clothes, bathe, eat, etc., because that involves putting the doll down for a moment. She gets very upset if it’s taken from her hands, even for a moment. When the doll isn’t around, she seems to forget about it – she doesn’t complain or ask for it, and she’s more interactive with us and willing to do things like eat meals.

    I’m glad that doll therapy works so well for so many people, but there can be real disadvantages as well. It makes her a bit happy, but it also seems to make her anxious and paranoid. I’m really not sure if she should continue to have access to her doll.

    • Lorrie

      The home my mother is in puts the doll in daycare while she is eating etc. This seems to be working out very well for her.

  • Syliva Smith

    where does one purchase one of these dolls?

    • Kesiana

      If you’re not aiming for super-realistic, your local toy store should have some good options.

  • J

    I bought my mom a baby doll a year ago and that has helped calm my mom. I do not have any issues seeing my mom with this doll she loves and cares for. When short term memory goes it is That long time maternal instinct memory is still strong. In moms mind she is caring for her children as they were once babies or her grandchildren. When I am visiting I act as though her baby is her baby and not a doll. There is no weirdness with a mom or father caring for a doll, a teddy bear or what ever bring our beloved parents comfort.

  • Joy Crochiere

    I was a CNA for over 30 years. I gave a doll to a women who won’t let anyone care for her without a fight, literally. After she got her baby, I was able to do her personal care without upsetting her or getting hurt myself. If the only downside is families feel it’s demeaning, that’s their problem. It should be about what’s best for the person with these diseases.

  • Rachel King

    Has there been any research on the effects of actual babies in easing anxiety and improving mood in alzheimers patients? I regularly take my baby to see my Nan and her fellow patients at her nursing home and it’seems a wonderful experience for them every time.

    • lindaslittles

      Yes there has. I am a nurse and currently work as an instructor for a nurses aide school. I bring my students to a nursing/rehab facility for there clinicals. I have also recently become a collector of reborn dolls. I have researched the literature and found studies that showed that when women hold babies, they release the hormone oxytocin in their brains. It is the hormone woman produce after giving birth that helps with bonding to their babies, and causes the letdown of milk if they are nursing their baby. The hormone relaxes us and makes us feel good. Studies have shown that because reborn dolls (that’s what they used in the study) are weighted like a real baby and look like a real baby, that oxytocin is also released when holding one. They have done studies with Altzheimer patients and found that this decreases agitation in the Altzheimers woman. (Men don’t have the hormone and don’t seem to benefit from the dolls.) They found that if you can get the doll to the female Altzheimer patient in the mild to moderate stage it helps the most. Patients who have the dolls cry and scream less, and seem happier. I brought one of my dolls into the nursing home the last time I was there with my students and let a few of the residents hold him, and they just loved it. I did tell them that he was a doll, but that didn’t seem to matter to them. They really enjoyed the experience. A group of us collectors (4) occasionally take them to the mall and introduce people to the hobby, while at the same time educate shoppers about the Altzheimer/reborn studies One of the women has had multiple pregnancy losses and was told she can’t have children. She can’t afford to adopt, so this helps her. Another of the women has anxiety disorder and this helps to calm her as well. So yes, Rachel, there is scientific evidence that it works, and I have seen it as well.

  • Suzanne Venesta

    Some years ago I was visiting a care facility for patients with Alzheimer’s and other age-related mental and physical disabilities. One old woman was given a doll by a kindly nurse’s assistant and it became the focal point of her life. She seemed happy and interacted with visitors and other patients in a cheerful, intelligent manner. This woman had a daughter who, I was told seldom visited her mother. The most recent visit had been five years earlier. Most unfortunately, soon after the patient had acquired the doll, the daughter showed up, stayed a few hours if that, and instructed the supervising doctor to take the doll away as she felt it increased her mother’s inability to relate to those around her. The doctor did so, the mother became very depressed, and a few weeks later died. The nurses, attendants, and visitors ot other patients were, apparently, all shocked at the daughter’s cruelty. It seems to me that, in this case, the doll was helping the poor old woman deal with the bleak, monotonous state in which she existed mentally. I cannot imagine how a doctor would agree to the decisions of a daughter who seldom came to see her mother.

  • Madelon

    It’s not about me. It’s not about the other caregivers in my family. It’s about mom and what will help bring joy and meaning to her life. I recently introduced one of my baby dolls to my mother. She really seemed to enjoy holding and talking to it. I would do anything for my mother. I pray she will continue to respond positively to the doll baby. How could I not want that for someone who took such good care of me when I was growing up. I owe it to her to do anything and everything in my power to help her live a meaningful and purposeful life during this time when most everything else seems to be slipping away.I pray the doll will be able to give her something the family members cannot.

  • podzol

    My Mom has some kind of dementia, doctors haven’t identified what kind. She’s always been very fond of animals, and has been very imaginative, so based upon reading this, I got her a stuffed animal with nice big eyes. After about 7 minutes, of wondering why I gave her a stuffed animal, she began bonding with it. She called it a “he,” named him cuddled, and taught him how to pray, and is wondering about his back-story.

    My mom is still fairly functional, she can email, use the phone, recognizes people and places, and has some skills around the house, so I was very surprised how responsive to this she was. She knows it’s not real, it’s an imaginary creature, not realistic at all, but it is giving her great comfort as she develops a relationship with it.

    Thank you for posting this story. It’s helped a very special woman.

  • Johnnie W. Barnes

    Great idea for ALZ patients who are acceptance of the doll (s). I do not think it should be pushed on them but placed in a small crib or bassinet where they can see it. This way, it is left up to the patient to bond with the doll. In my opinion , it is not demeaning at all. Depending on the stage they have reached we care for them like we would a baby. If this doll brings joy and comfort to them, I said go for it. As a caregiver, you are their brain so to speak….you have to think for them. Your thoughts should be one of comfort and stimulation for the patient.

  • Pat Durham

    I am a Life Enrichment Director in a community that has two memory care units. I must also add that I am a porcelain doll artist and doll collector. I was very nervous of introducing doll therapy to our residents because we are regulated to do activities that are “Age appropriate”. Before introducing the doll I contacted the state regulators to ask if there was any regulation preventing me because I know this therapy is controversial. I was told there was no regulation either way. I purchased a doll with a particular resident in mind, a lady who can become very agitated and combative. I was convinced it was going to be the answer, when she was given the doll she did react with a smile and her manner became gentle and loving, I thought I had scored a triumph. However, when I made to move away she said here don’t leave this with me its your problem. I found she liked the baby as long as she did not think she was given the responsibility. Alright not the total success I had hoped, in my mind caring for the baby would have given her purpose and nurturing constantly. Her rejection of the doll caused a breakthrough no one saw coming. A male resident sat nearby who continually called obscenities and harassed staff said give him to me. In a moment this belligerent old man turned into the softest, kindest person before our eyes, dancing the baby on his knee, talking to it, putting it up to his shoulder and rocking the baby. There were tears in the eyes of the staff who had thought me crazy, and until the day he died he cared for and cherished the baby. Of course we were all worried about his families reaction, because of his needs we had a number of family conferences that had not been easy. I did tell the front desk to let me know the next time a family member came before they got up to the unit. I took them aside and asked for their indulgence and not to judge before they saw him with the doll and they seemed irritated and skeptical until they witnessed his transformation and then they were fully on board and encouraged it. What I am trying to say it may not work for everyone but when it does the results are truly heartwarming.

  • Gen

    Whatever gives someone purpose and meaning throughout their journey of dementia. If someone feels they want to give love to have a sense of giving i am all for it.
    I love to engage with someone about their baby or pet even if they can not communicate i have seen people’s eyes light up and sometimes a smile.

  • Great informational article….Guys just sharing this awesome reborn dolls store for cheap and real lifelike baby dolls.…hope find useful and get well soon

  • Sandradryden

    My mom liked the doll for a while. when she was still speaking she would talk to it and even kiss it. We thought that was sweet

  • Bren

    My mother was recently placed in a nursing home with severe pain in her hips from a sacral break. She had mild dementia but she seems to be getting much worse. Can I introduce a “baby” doll to her or is it a bad idea since she went in with mild dementia?

  • Angela

    It sounds like a good idea to me. I don’t think it is demeaning. I suffer from depression and anxiety and I have a baby doll that I “care for.” I don’t think of her as a doll, and I find it very therapeutic to hold her, cuddle her, “feed” her her bottle, give her a pacifier, and change her clothes. I think doll therapy could be very comforting and effective for people dealing with Alzheimer’s.

  • iamwired_what?

    My mom has alzheimers and I am her closest relative, so she calls me multiple times a day and follows me around when I’m with her as if she will lose me if she doesn’t. I’m wondering if doll therapy would give her some comfort when I’m at work.

  • chesterv

    I would think that the problem here is these people who complain about a doll! If it helps keep them calm and/or focused, then there is no problem. These people suffering are going to forget these family members or talk to them like kids anyway, as thats the nature of how it goes. They aren’t going to get BETTER, they are going to get worse………the issue is finding something that will SLOW IT DOWN or help them focus on a single thought, rather than getting upset because they can’t concentrate long enough to focus on who you are or what is being said.

    If a hunk of plastic shaped like a baby works better than medications, then so be it!

    If anybody complains about it, then they are selfish bastards who don’t have the well being of these people in mind……only their own selfish whims.

  • Mon

    Anything that works for each individual, they are still unique…is a bonus, the way I see it. My mom is in the late stages but has still much to give and is strong as an ox. Any moments of peace that she can find and be given, is wonderful, I feel. Will I ever know what she feels inside, no, but if her outward appearance shows moments of joy or even just pausing for the moment, I am all in. She has a “baby”, she has some stuffies, she uses none of them, they sit on top of her dresser, but they are there, and she looks over at them, swearing at us if we touch them.

    We still pause for birthdays for her (hers is today), and we laugh after we leave as a sense of relief and understanding that each of us has just experienced moments of joy, moments of trauma, and so much more as we visited. I do not believe that there is a magic bullet, but moments in time when you can feel the person is relieved from their dementia…let it go, if it works, so be it, if not, so be it.

    We care and love them and we deal with supporting them as they “live” (she lives until she dies) on the way to their final moments. I am no saint and my daughter and I talk about whether we feel that Grandma would be better off in death than she is in life. Right now, I have no control over that, so if I a “baby” can bring some moments of peace and some good memories and some purpose to her life…so be it.

  • Gill

    Hi, I firmly believe that doll therapy works. My mother is 94 years old and has mixed dementia and it was her ‘turn’ to have the therapy doll in her care home. This made such a difference to her that we immediately went out and bought her her own doll. She sings to it and chats to it and she loves it, she’s even named it Hannah, which is her name. Saying that, I can totally understand how some families feel. the first time I saw mam cradling the doll i cried, it signifies classic dementia to me and that hurts. However, this is not about me. This is mams world not mine, so the doll is a big part of her world and that is enough for me.


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