Controversial Doll Therapy May Help Those Living With Dementia

African American mother daughter grandmother smilingA group of senior care providers and experts have revealed a controversial therapy for those already suffering with dementia that can be cradled in your arms – dolls.

Though studies relating to doll therapy – also known as cuddle therapy – are limited, past research indicates that the therapeutic use of dolls for people living with dementia can reduce the need for medications, diminish anxiety, improve communication, and increase the overall well-being of those suffering from the incurable disease. Meanwhile, other studies detected limitations including: “confusion over the ownership the doll and healthcare professional uncertainty about issues pertaining to autonomy.”

“A lot of people with Alzheimer’s are bored and may become depressed or agitated or unhappy because they aren’t engaged,” said Ruth Drew, director of family and information services at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Of course, there is much work to be done. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NBCI), “some healthcare professionals feel uncomfortable about its use in clinical practice. The operationalization of doll therapy in clinical practice has been shown to be inconsistent with different approaches to the practice being advocated.”

Those hesitant about the use of doll therapy feel the dolls can be patronizing, treating their older loved ones like children, according to the site

Tips for Using Doll Therapy

If you are considering introducing doll therapy with your loved one, the following suggestions are recommended:

  1. Do not call the doll a doll.
  2. Provide a bassinet or small crib for the doll.
  3. Do not purchase a doll that cries out loud, as that could be upsetting.
  4. Do not force a doll on any senior. Allow them to be stimulated, approach and hold the doll on their own time.
  5. Communicate the purpose of the doll for any one else who may be providing care.

As for the importance of the findings, if anything, it highlights the need for further experimental research surrounding the “under-developed therapy,” to identify best practice and education in healthcare literature to increase awareness in both healthcare professional and caregiver populations.

Preventing Dementia

According to recommendations made by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, there are 6 pillars of dementia prevention. The following tips may also help with dementia management: