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Are dolls for dementia patients a good or bad idea?

My grandmother keeps looking for her babies. Should I buy her a doll? Part of me likes the idea but part of me feels it is also demeaning.
Status: Open    Jan 30, 2016 - 12:20 PM


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Feb 09, 2016 - 10:05 AM

Your ambivalence about whether or not to buy your grandmother a doll is completely understandable. You want to honor her as your grandmother, not treat her like a child. But here is the thing: your grandmother’s reality now may be different than yours. If she is looking for her babies, she may well be inhabiting a reality that places her in the role of mother and so her anxiousness is completely understandable. By all means, buy her a doll, and if she is worrying about her babies, then it should be a baby doll/infant. If her kids were boys, you might consider buying a boy doll. If girls, a girl doll — you get the idea.

When you bring her the baby, if she seems to want to care for him/her as she would have her own children, then you will probably want to also give her clothes for the baby, a blanket, etc.

In general, the goal should be to meet your grandmother where she is — to step into her world and validate what she is experiencing.

You are doing the right thing by trying to figure out what would make her feel most at ease and most honored.

Feb 09, 2016 - 12:28 PM

If that is what she is looking for then let it comfort her. I see no harm in it if it calms her and if its like a security blanket then that's alright. I would also buy a bassinett or a crib for the doll. Dolls do more than just provide comfort, they 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 big fan of doll Therapy as well as music for alzheimers patients. Rub a little baby lotion scent on your doll and play a cd of nursery rhymes while they hold the doll imagine the total calmness that they experience. It will give her joy if that's what it is she is wanting. Good luck!

Feb 12, 2016 - 07:28 AM

I cannot be more emphatic when I say YES, they are a GREAT idea! At The Fremont, as with many memory care communities, we maintain what we call "Life Stations" which we use as tools for redirecting residents, especially when they are agitated. Some of the Life Stations change by community. The one in every single memory care we operate, however, is the nursery. In it, we have created a special area with a bassinet, dolls, rocking or gliding chair and even some stuffed animals. The Life Station is not appropriate for every resident, but for some it really means the world in providing compassionate care because there is so much inherent value in a resident with dementia caring for the life of a child. In many ways, I think it can be said that women (especially) are naturally inclined to be a caregiver to infants.

I recently saw a wonderful video that made some viral rounds on social media of a grandmother with dementia who was handed a baby doll. You can watch it here:

"Dementia doll therapy" alzheimer's and Ronney

I have always enjoyed the Maria Shriver blog about Alzheimer's and in this case, I read a good article about using a doll for Alzheimer's care:

I'm not a doctor. There are some people who frown upon dolls as patronizing and even claim that they mask behavioral issues. However, caring for a loved one with dementia is not about the kind of behavior modification techniques that are used to make a child ready for the world. This is about finding some manner of meaningful stimulation for your mom and using any tools at your disposal to reduce agitation. Given our success in the residential Memory Care setting using this particular technique, I say there is nothing to lose so long as it is a help and not more of a burden.


Feb 06, 2016 - 06:17 AM

If you think she would like a doll get her one.
I would get one of the ones that looks like an infant.
Get some clothes and little blankets as well.
If she shows interest great, if not then you could try something else.
Sometimes a stuffed dog or cat can work in helping to distract or relax someone.
My husband loves his blanket and will sit and hold the edge and often chew on it. This relaxes him and if it makes him relaxed and happy it makes my day go a lot better!
If you do decide to get her the doll get one that has a body that can be washed or wiped down.
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