Doll Therapy for Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can cause personality changes, agitation, and aggression. In some nursing homes and senior facilities around the U.S., a controversial method called doll therapy is being used to ease anxiety in people with dementia.
Supporters of the therapy—in which patients hold, change, dress, and even talk and sing to dolls—claim that it calms patients, reduces distress, and gives patients a sense of attachment. Caregivers who use doll therapy say the technique can help engage patients and improve communication. People with dementia often cannot participate in activities they once enjoyed and can become unhappy and bored. Some caregivers use the dolls as a way to talk to patients about their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Others argue that the therapy is demeaning to patients and infantilizes intelligent, educated older adults. Caregivers who oppose doll therapy often prefer to use brain games and art/music therapy to reach their patients and maintain their dignity. Doll therapy research is limited, but some studies show it may reduce the need for medications and lessen agitation, aggression, and wandering in people with dementia.
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