Family Caregivers, Gram Helen's Story

Doll Therapy

Gram is slowing down, and her heart is starting to fail. This causes her pain, and when she has pain, she gets a little naughty. She is cranky with caregivers and other residents when she is in that pain, and it makes life a little difficult.

Recently, the wife on another resident brought in a life-like baby doll for Gram. She was cleaning house, didn’t need the doll, and thought Gram would enjoy it. Oh, my goodness, was she right!!

The first time I visited and found Gram holding the baby and cooing at it, it was a little startling. She clearly thought the baby was real, and that took a minute to wrap my mind around. But seeing how happy and calm she was took away any reservations I had. I sat and complimented her on the beautiful baby, and she just beamed with pride. She said “She’s the best baby ever. She never cries, do you, sweet thing?” That made me smile.

I’ve since done some research on “Doll Therapy”. It’s a real form of therapy used with dementia patients. I have always known the beauty of mixing the elderly with small children…that’s why we started Gentog, after all! But we don’t usually allow the seniors to hold the children for safety reasons. This holding and rocking of the baby doll reaches a whole new level of happiness.

Mom and I were discussing this last night, and we agreed that the doll therapy offered something for us, as family members, too. Mom watched it and imagined/remembered how it felt to be hugged and loved by her mom. I didn’t remember being held by Gram that way (although I undoubtedly was!), but I treasured the memory of her rocking my son as an infant. Those happy memories helped us bring the real Gram back into focus.

While doll therapy won’t work for everyone, when it does, it is beautiful. I will definitely be looking to purchase a doll or two for our program.