Nursing homes are giving Alzheimer's patients baby dolls as a form of therapy
- Pearl's Memory Babies, a nonprofit group based in Kentucky, is giving hundreds of patients with Alzheimer's disease baby dolls as a form of therapy.
- Doll therapy can help ease anxiety among patients with Alzheimer's or dementia. It is being used at nursing homes across the country.
- A number of studies suggest the dolls can can improve communication and reduce the need for psychotropic medication.
- Critics say that the dolls can infantilise elderly patients and demean them.
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A group in Kentucky is giving hundreds of patients with Alzheimer's disease baby dolls as a form of therapy.
Pearl's Memory Babies, a nonprofit group based in Kentucky, was launched after its founder, Sandy Cambron, saw the lasting effect a doll had on her mother-in-law, Pearl Walker.
"She started talking again and she never went anywhere without that baby," Cambron told the Washington Post. "She took 'baby' to the dining room with her and slept with her in her arms every night. When she passed away a year later, we even buried her with that well-loved baby doll."
Now Pearl's Memory Babies has donated more than 300 dolls to patients with Alzheimer's disease or dementia at nursing homes in Indiana and Kentucky.
"I had no idea that it would take off like this. It's a simple idea, but it works," she said. "Some people cry when you hand them their baby. Even though we don't know exactly what they're thinking, you can tell that the doll has helped bring back some kind of nice memory."
Doll therapy is used across the US and even internationally. It can help ease anxiety among patients with Alzheimer's or dementia.
The research around dolls and Alzheimer's disease is far from conclusive, but a number of studies suggest the dolls can can improve communication and reduce the need for psychotropic medication, according to NPR.
But critics say that the dolls can infantilise elderly patients and demean them.
Stephanie Zeverino who works in community relations for Belmont Village Senior Living Westwood in Texas, told Kaiser Health News in 2016 that the facility prefers to use art and music for therapy, as well as brain games that promote critical thinking.
"They are adults and we want to treat them like adults. Theses are very well-educated residents," she said. "We want to provide a sense of dignity."
Ruth Drew, the Alzheimer's Association's director of information and support services, told INSIDER that anecdotal evidence suggests that dolls can help calm people who have agitation as a result of the disease, improve overall mood, increase social interaction, and provide a feeling of companionship for people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
"One possible explanation - people living with Alzheimer's disease tend to forget recent memories first, so holding a doll may bring back old memories of raising their own children - taking them back to a happy time in their life," she said in an email. "People living with Alzheimer's - particularly in the later stages - can respond to a variety of different interactions or stimuli. They could include favorite music, photos, puzzles or pets."
"There are many ways family members can make connections with their loved ones," she continued. "It's important to keep trying until you find one that works."
- Read more:
- New research found a link between Alzheimer's and gum disease bacteria, but there are other reasons gum disease is bad for your health
- Bill Gates says there could be a way to predict Alzheimer's using a voice app that listens for 'warning signs'
- A test teenagers took in the 1960s could help predict Alzheimer's risk today
- This is what it's like to care for someone with dementia
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