FREE TRAINING: How To Care For A Loved One With Dementia
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Uncategorized Sep 05, 2018

Well hey there Careblazer. Have you ever heard of doll therapy for dementia? Basically, it's a practice that is becoming more common and it basically involves giving someone with dementia a baby doll to care for. I did a video on it an you can watch it here.

Although there are currently only a few research studies on this topic, studies are promising. Results show that doll therapy can be a way to reduce some of the difficult behavior symptoms of dementia like agitation, aggression, obsessive behaviors, wandering, and negative mood. Despite this information, there are some people who are against this approach. 

In this post, I'm going to talk about:

  • Evidence for doll therapy
  • Pros/Cons are against doll therapy
  • And how to decide whether this is something you want to consider with your loved one.


What is doll therapy?

Doll therapy is basically giving someone with dementia, usually someone with moderate to severe dementia a baby doll. It’s based on something called attachment theory which was originally for children and has now been applied to older adults with dementia. The goal is to give the person with dementia reassurance and comfort.

 What is the evidence for doll therapy?

Although doll therapy has been going on for quite a while, research doll therapy is is still new, with one of the first articles being published about 10 years ago. 

Based on the research that has been done, research shows that doll therapy can

  • Reduce agitation
  • Reduce wandering,
  • Reduce caregiver stress
  • Improve interactions with others
  • Sustain communication skills
  • Prevents social withdrawal
  • AND reduces use of antipsychotic drugs for difficult dementia behaviors
  • And it’s low cost- basically the cost of a baby doll!


That sounds pretty good right? Despite those promising results, there is a camp of people who have expressed serious concerns about doll therapy. The biggest concern happens to be that giving older adults with dementia dolls, is treating them as children because it may be considered demeaning. There is also some concern that it can lead to more confusion on part of the person with dementia.  

In addition to those concerns, some  possible drawbacks cons to be aware of include:

  • Possibility of someone with dementia becoming over fatigued or exhausted with caring for the baby doll
  • Possibility of losing the baby doll
  • Thinking the baby doll died

 In the end, the general consensus is that the decision to use a doll to help the behaviors of someone with dementia should be left up to the person with dementia. It is a relatively small decision with little safety risk or harm and if a person with dementia shows interest in a baby doll, then you may want to let them show interest. You can try leaving a baby doll in their sight or handing them a baby doll and see how they react.

 Again, everyone is different. Not everyone will respond to this approach and it’s typically reserved for those with severe dementia.

 Although there are currently no formal guidelines for how to start and manage doll therapy some general guidelines that others have considered include:

  • Not telling someone with dementia that the doll is real. They may think it is and act like it is, but you shouldn’t be telling them that. Now if they do think it is real, you want to avoid correcting them.
  • Consider a doll that does not cry as this can be distressing
  • Don’t force the doll on your loved one. Let them interact with it as they wish
  • If your loved one chooses to interact with the doll and takes to the idea, inform other important caregivers of the purpose of the doll so they understand.

 What do you think, Careblazer? Is doll therapy something you would ever consider with your loved one or do you feel that this is demeaning and wrong? 

Thank you for being here and doing what you do for your loved one with dementia. 

If you haven't already joined the FB group, you can do so here:

 - Natali Edmonds


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