wings and things

‘The doll thing’

on April 23, 2015

In yesterday’s post I rather clumsily referred to “doll therapy” as ‘the doll thing’ so here is a short explanation: it is simply the provision of life-like baby dolls for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Doll therapy, sometimes called “baby doll therapy”, has been used in the care of people with dementia for over 20 years but is still controversial. This morning I did some online research in the hope that I would find some life-like dolls that were less than hundreds of dollars each; alas, they are very expensive. In the dementia house where I work there are two baby dolls that are semi-life-like but, as there are more than two women who love these dolls, we need a few more. Pros and cons: In my opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons of this kind of therapy because I have seen how comforting it is for someone to have a doll in her arms that she sees as a very real baby. However, it can be quite confronting for relatives and even new care-givers to see this kind of simulation unfold and the most common complaint is that it is demeaning and undignified. Now that I have formed a very strong opinion on the pro side, I would ask the person who said the other day, “What’s with the doll?” in front of the woman holding her ‘baby’ in the wheelchair I was pushing, to justify this insensitive comment. But now I get it – I get how ‘the doll thing’ upsets people; it is a sight (mother and baby) that hits the core of the beginning of uncertainty. If Doll Therapy comforts your mother, grandmother, friend, then why do you criticise it? And if you do, at least have the decency to dignify your criticism with a more than once-a-month visit to her. The dolls are more reliable.

37 responses to “‘The doll thing’

  1. There are a few people at nan’s nursing home who are much calmer when they have a doll with them, I have seen how they can calm the person down so I think they are a good idea

  2. Oh … when I first read this, I thought you meant me as I had asked you what you meant by the doll therapy (thing), as I had never heard of it. So I hope you were not offended by that. Now that you have explained it, I think it is a good idea. When I was left by my husband, for the first few months I used to wrap a cuddly blanket around me at night watching TV, and I would take it to bed with me and lay my cheek against it. It provided me with warmth. It became my comforter. I do not see much difference in that and the use of dolls to comfort these people in what they are going through.

    • jmgoyder says:

      Of course I didn’t mean you! I was just referring to a rather insensitive acquaintance. I think you are wonderful and I love this comment – brilliant!

  3. I can see myself holding on to my childhood doll John if I ever develop dementia, he would be a great source of comfort though he isn’t life like, I still love him. 🙂

  4. Trisha says:

    Well said! I’d never heard of ‘the doll thing’ before but you’ve described it to be exactly what I imagined. Do you think it takes the patient back to the feeling of holding their own children?

  5. I think the key word is comfort. Whatever or whoever provides comfort to the aged or those with dementia, is what should be offered….. and to me it would seem that it would be upsetting to see or hear any critical or demeaning words to be spoken. Why oh why do some have such limited or non-existent compassion? Diane

  6. Terry says:

    I have heard similar comments while working in the unit. I hate it and what to spout off, but due to being reported, I say with a smile, that the doll is their friend. Big hugs, You have such a heart of gold. No wonder I consider you such a dear, close friend

  7. Good for you Julie. It’s funny how we sometimes come to the defense of others under the guise of protecting their dignity over issues that are non issues to them.

    For example, here people working in the homeless sector have decided it’s offensive to call someone homeless and we should be calling them people who are experiencing homeless because in saying homeless person we are letting homeless define them. Make sense? I’ve hear the argument that we don’t call people with cancer, cancer people. But the truth is, it’s not bugging homeless people, at least not the ones I know, they call themselves homeless.

    My point is that sometimes we, as a society, border on ridiculous over things that are…well, ridiculous. haha I should go to bed, it’s late and I’m being a babbler, or should I say I’m a person experiencing babbling… ❤
    Diana xo

  8. frangipani says:

    I think it only seems undignified when we view the person with dementia in our reality. In their perception of the world, they’re just fine. And that is what dignified care is really about, allowing the person with dementia to live according to their terms, not ours.

  9. janeslog says:

    If it gives comfort then what is the harm in it? We all have different things which cause us comfort.

  10. bulldog says:

    Why can young girls play with dolls and older women not? Why is a girl given a doll,? Is it to stimulate a later motherly instinct? Then why can older women suffering from dementia not be given a doll if it stimulates their motherly instincts… I would have thought that it would stimulate the natural instincts of the brain… is that not what one tries to do with these poor souls?

  11. I first saw this years ago when I walked in to a nursing home. I was there for an “investigation” so a staff member was walking with me. As soon as I ‘saw this’ I figured out what it was but when we passed the staff explained it on their own. The staff explaining it to me was excited about the comfort it gave that particular woman. I thought it was brilliant when I saw the content and happy look on the woman’s face. She was so at peace holding that baby. I remember leaving with a smile that day.

  12. Judith Post says:

    My mother had a doll she loved, but she had a little, stuffed monkey, too. She loved the monkey as much as the doll, and they both made her happy. And she loved looking at children’s books. My sisters and I were just happy when we could find anything that brought her joy.

  13. Luanne says:

    Julie, may I post a link on my Writer Site Facebook page or not?

  14. Tiny says:

    That’s sounds like a great therapy, to experience holding a baby again. Thanks for this post Julie.

  15. I haven’t heard of doll therapy before, so thanks for this post. I think your last two sentences are wonderfully to the point.

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