Are Therapy Dolls Good for Dementia Patients?
Therapeutic Baby Dolls for Alzheimer’s Patients
A helpful, non-drug way to calm and soothe seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia is to give them a soft, lifelike baby doll to cuddle. These therapy dolls can even be effective in calming older adults with severe agitation or other significant behavioral issues. (Image above is of Paradise Galleries Lifelike Realistic Baby Doll, Cuddle Bear Bella.)
Why Use Therapy Dolls for Dementia?
Therapy dolls help seniors feel useful and needed and give them something positive to focus on. Similar to the effect of soft toys like stuffed animals, hugging something soft helps someone with dementia soothe themselves.
Another reason therapy dolls are helpful is that they bring back happy memories of early parenthood for both women and men.
A video is worth a thousand words on this topic:
Video: Baby Doll Interaction with Dementia
Having a child to care for can also ease feelings of isolation and sadness. After all, most of us have seen or experienced the way that interacting with real babies can quickly lift spirits and calm nerves.
Many older adults will enjoy rocking and cuddling their doll. Some even adopt the baby as their own and make caring for it part of their daily routine.
Tips for Introducing Doll Therapy to Your Senior
The best approach is to casually introduce the doll to your senior and let them decide if they like it or not.
If they have no interest in the doll, don’t make an issue out of it. They may change their minds in the future so you could always give it another try in a few weeks or months.
A few tips:
- Don’t act like the doll is a doll, refer to it as a baby and treat it like a real child.
- Get a lifelike doll, but one that doesn’t cry – that could be upsetting.
- Don’t force it, allow your senior to get to know the doll slowly.
Try it out, see how your older adult responds, and be flexible.
Fidget Products for Alzheimer’s
Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may show anxiety or agitation through fidgety hands.
Signs include pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, rubbing hands together, twisting fingers, wringing hands, and generally keeping hands in motion.
Sensory therapy or fidget toys are an effective way to reduce anxiety, calm nerves, and provide comfort.
These are simple touch-based activities that help someone with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy in safe, soothing ways.
Make A Fidget Box or Basket
It’s also easy to make your own fidget box or basket. Pull out the box when your older adult needs something to do and throw everything back into the box when they’re done.
Get a container and fill it with some inexpensive odds and ends you can find in your house, make quickly, or buy at the dollar store.
Gather things in a variety of colors and textures, like:
- Things with zippers or velcro closures
- Stress balls for squeezing
- Brightly colored plastic springs (like a Slinky)
- A row of buttons sewn firmly onto a ribbon
- A piece of soft fleece or faux fur
- Old keys on a key ring
Some seniors are comforted by keeping a familiar item with them, like a purse or wallet. Try filling an old purse or wallet with a few dollars, coins, play money, or faux credit cards so your older adult can rummage through whenever they like.
Are Dolls and Fidget Blankets Controversial?
You may have heard from caregivers who say their older adults are much calmer and happier now that they have their own baby doll. They’re relieved to have found a non-drug solution that eases their senior’s dementia symptoms.
Some people, however, are concerned that giving their older adult a doll or a “toy” would be demeaning or patronizing. But when someone has dementia, helping them feel safe and happy in their current reality is the top priority. That’s why we sometimes need to consider unconventional approaches like baby dolls, fidget blankets, and other simple activities and toys.
Another Idea: Coloring Books For Seniors
Boredom in older adults can cause problems, including difficult behavior and depression. And, seniors who have moved in with relatives or into assisted living are more likely to be bored because their lives have changed so much.
A research study found that adults 65 or older who engaged in creative activities had better overall health, made fewer visits to the doctor, used less medication, and had fewer health problems. Wow!
It’s also an excellent mood booster and de-stresser – making it a perfect activity for caregivers too!
Coloring is great activity for seniors to explore their artistic side. These fine art coloring books are lots of fun, even for people who don’t enjoy painting or free-hand drawing.
They’ll get the joy of creating a beautiful work of art with no artistic skills required!
I found some inexpensive, non-childish coloring books seniors will love, with subjects which will interest many older adults.
The pages in adult coloring books are perforated so they’re easy to remove for display.
Also, the lines in the adult coloring books are gray, so they’ll basically disappear after the pictures are colored in, making it look even better.
Your senior will be proud to display their finished artwork.
Of course, the decision is entirely up to you since you know your older adult best.
If you think a therapy doll, a fidget blanket or activity, or coloring might help them feel better and enjoy life more, why not give it a try?
It’s an inexpensive “treatment” with no side effects.
No matter what the activity or toy, just remember that the goal is to engage your older adult in something fun and keep their hands happily occupied.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it and no specific goal to achieve – whatever feels good to them is perfect!
Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas. I welcome your comments below.
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