Baby dolls for Alzheimer’s patients are therapeutic
A helpful, non-drug way to calm and soothe agitated 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 someone with severe agitation or other significant behavioral challenges.
We explain why therapy dolls can work, share tips for introducing a doll to your older adult, discuss why some find this idea controversial, and suggest inexpensive dolls that older adults may enjoy.
Why therapy dolls for dementia work
Therapy dolls can 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 feel comforted and soothed.
Another reason therapy dolls are helpful is that they can bring back happy memories of early parenthood for both women and men.
Many older adults enjoy rocking and cuddling their doll. Some even adopt the baby as their own and make caring for it part of their daily routine.
Having a child to care for can also ease feelings of isolation and sadness.
After all, when interacting with real babies, many people find their spirits lifted and their nerves calmed.
How to introduce doll therapy
The best approach is to casually introduce the doll to your older adult and let them decide if they like it or not.
If they have no interest in the doll or get upset, don’t make an issue out of it.
Even if someone isn’t interested in the moment, they may change their minds in the future so you could try again 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 might be upsetting.
Don’t force it, allow your senior to get to know the doll slowly.
Some caregivers find dolls controversial
A doll can be a safe and inexpensive “treatment” for someone with dementia.
We’ve heard from many family caregivers that say their older adults are 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. However, some people are concerned that giving their older adult a doll would be demeaning or patronizing. But when someone has dementia, helping them feel safe and happy in their current reality is the top priority.
So if trying unconventional ideas like baby dolls, fidget blankets, and other simple activities and toys might help them feel better and enjoy life more, why not give them a try?.
If they do get upset or offended by the doll, you’ll know to cross that off the list of potential calming activities. Or, you could put it away and try again as their dementia progresses.
You know your older adult best. If a doll isn’t likely to suit their personality or preferences, move on to other ideas.