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Dolls soothe dementia sufferers

By Sarah Doktor, Delhi News-Record

Life-like dolls have been introduced to residents at the Delhi Long Term Care Centre who are experiencing dementia. The dolls help with behaviour and mood in some sufferers. (SARAH DOKTOR Delhi News-Record)

Life-like dolls have been introduced to residents at the Delhi Long Term Care Centre who are experiencing dementia. The dolls help with behaviour and mood in some sufferers. (SARAH DOKTOR Delhi News-Record)

DELHI - 

A controversial therapy has met great success at the Delhi Long Term Care Centre.

Doll therapy refers to the use of life-like dolls in the lives of dementia and Alzheimer patients. The style of therapy has been around for decades but is sometimes criticized for demeaning or belittling elderly adults.

Two dolls were introduced into Delhi Long Term Care Centre three months ago on the advice of Kathie Savage, psychogeriatric Resource Consultant with the Alzheimer Society of Haldimand Norfolk.

Dementia patients often act on instinct instead of reason, which can sometimes lead to destructive behaviour. When dolls are introduced they can significantly improve the behaviour of the residents.

“It can be soothing,” said Savage. “It gives them something to nurture.”

Most patients in the later stages of dementia believe the doll is a real baby and become dedicated to taking care of the baby.

There are six residents, including one man, that share the dolls at the Delhi Long Term Care Centre. They take turns caring for the dolls and share responsibility for them.

“They’re like little mother hens,” said Denise Boutin, director of programs at the Delhi Long Term Care Centre.

The centre is currently looking into purchasing three or four additional dolls to be used as therapy.

Pam Elson, restorative care aid at the Delhi centre, noted it has increased eye contact and communication between residents who were struggling before the introduction of the dolls.

“It’s more of an in-the-moment therapy,” said Elson, explaining the dolls help with issues in the present such as behavior, instead of trying to repair the patient’s brains to a pre-dementia stage.

“It has decreased behaviour (that would put the patient at risk for an injury),” said Elson. “There is more social interaction.”

One resident was being monitored for depression before but since the doll therapy has been introduced her level of depression has greatly decreased.

“She’s now communicating. She’s more compliant,” said Sarah Cope, restorative coordinator at the centre. When the baby has to go to bed, so will the resident. The same can be said of other activities.

While the sight of an elderly adult nurturing a doll may be met with surprise at first, the dolls are bridging the gap between families and those suffering from dementia.

“Families are really on board,” said Elson. “They use the baby as a way to communicate.”

In one case, when a daughter would come to visit she would just sit in the room with the mother, but after the doll was introduced they would spend their time singing to the baby and caring for it.

While the therapy has worked so far in Delhi, Savage notes it will not work for all patients.

“You really don’t know until the doll is present,” said Savage.

 

Sarah Doktor

519-426-3528 ext. 112

sarah.doktor@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/sarahreformer

 


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