Doll Therapy

April 30th, 2013

Doll therapy

Doll Therapy is a new type of therapy for dementia patients, being used in care homes across the UK.

Residents are given what is known as an empathy doll to hold. These come in a variety of sizes and ethnicities and costs around £60 (around US$90). The therapy has proved so popular with residents that some don’t want to return them to staff.

This new form of therapy is proving controversial,however, as it can be upsetting for families to see their elderly relatives in an infantilized state. Four Seasons Health Care in Cheshire has faced opposition from relatives and staff. Caroline Baker, head of quality and dementia care at the home, said “some families have felt embarrassed by the fact that their relative used dolls or teddies”.

Despite some finding the therapy demeaning, there are consistent reports that the dolls have a calming effect, wandering has reduced and there has been an increase in communication with improved speech.

There are various theories as to why doll therapy is proving so effective; some believe it brings back happy memories of parenthood and of being useful and needed. Caroline Baker describes the therapy as “nurturing … giving patients a sense of meaning and purpose”.

Four Seasons Healthcare initially introduced doll therapy in 2008 as part of its PEARL program. The ethos of PEARL (Positively Enriching and Enhancing Residents’ Lives) is to see beyond dementia and appreciate the individuality of each resident. A recent study of the program revealed that use of anti-psychotic medication had fallen by nearly half.


Photo by sfllaw

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