Dolls as Therapy for Dementia
These life-like dolls are simply amazing!
These life-like dolls are simply amazing!
I am always learning more about how dolls benefit people with dementia, and how to use dolls as therapy for dementia. I know that dolls work; that they often work wonders. I see for myself how they calm agitation and aggressive behavior. Friends and customers tell me that a relationship with a doll can eliminate the need for many of the drugs prescribed to control just those behaviors. Dolls help without the undesirable side effects that go with the prescriptions.
At a conference we attended recently we were able to spend some face time with Cindy and Darryl, creators of Serenity Babies. We had a really nice visit, as it has been a couple of years since we last saw them in person. They shared some tips for using dolls as therapy. And, we picked up a couple of dolls, so we have two real beauties that are ready to go to loving homes.
Cindy (Big Cindy) shared one of her ideas with us, an idea that extends doll therapy. She looks for books to include with the dolls. Pages from one such book is pictured here. The books she looks for are not books you would ordinarily share with an adult, even an adult with dementia. That would be really stretching the idea of appropriateness, even if the book does happen to be stage-appropriate. A person could easily be offended by that gesture. However, ask that same person if he or she would like to read the book to the baby and the idea becomes entirely appropriate. No stigma of being given a “baby” book, yet you will be providing the benefit of both memory and cognitive stimulation.
Below is a letter to Cindy from the CEO of a residential facility that has created a nursery with Serenity Babies. She is forwarding a report from the social worker in charge of the nursery.
I have below a report from Kenzie Reiland, social worker that has been put in charge of our serenity nursery program at Spring Valley Senior Living.
Serenity Babies are a great way to stimulate an individual’s mind. I have come up with several interventions that will incorporate our Serenity Babies into the daily life of the individuals in need. To name a few: If a resident frequently wanders, tries to get up from his or her wheelchair, seems sad or down, or is feeling anxious – I have found that asking the resident if they would like to hold the baby is a great distraction. Our residents are frequently thrilled when asked if they would like to hold a Serenity Baby. The parental instinct they have seems to kick in and they go back into a time of familiarity.
Some suggestions for using dolls as therapy
From experience, our resident’s are also happy when asked to be involved in helping with the baby or changing the babies’ clothing. One day I noticed a resident seemed to be slightly agitated, so I asked if the resident would like to join me in the nursery to help pick out a new outfit for one of our babies. It was so fun to see the resident picking out the baby’s clothes, and after, holding and soothing the baby.
A few scenarios I have encountered thus far include one resident thinking the baby had a fever. She then tried to soothe him by rocking him and humming to him. The next day I asked the resident if she would mind holding the baby and she was ecstatic, stating she loves taking care of babies and would love to hold a baby if I did not mind. I sat with the resident explaining the baby’s background – his name, where he was born, and how old he is, as the resident rocked the baby and stated multiple times “I love you Mister Baby, you’re a nice baby!” This warmed my heart to see this resident acting motherly and calm towards the baby. This particular incident makes me even more of an advocate to use the Serenity Babies for any chance possible.
Serenity Babies do work!
It takes a resident who is frequently unsettled and has a short attention span, and helps them become calm and broadens their span of attention enormously. These Serenity Babies are so much more than just dolls; they truly are babies that can help better the lives of anyone who encounters them.
At our facility, I have made a binder for our five babies that includes a page dedicated to each baby. The page includes a photo, age, where they were born, and a little something the baby enjoys. I also added interventions, and ways to have resident’s interact with the babies. I added how to care for them and some helpful rules for the staff. I made this book for any visitors to be able to see where our nursery is located and to help meet and learn about our Serenity Babies.
Thought you might be interested in hearing this.
Penny Solberg, LNHA, CPA, CGMA, MBA, CASP
Spring Valley Senior Living
Unfortunately, Cindy and Darryl are no longer making these wonderful therapy dolls. On the other hand, the advice and wisdom provided here is still valid.
Purple Angel Ambassador
Dementia Friendly America