Friday, July 1, 2011

Dolls and Other Dementia Therapy (Research, Video 2:32)

 “What’s your baby’s name?” I asked while exploring my hospice dementia patient’s reality. Susan and her doll stared at each other, grinning as if they knew secrets from ancient times. And maybe they did. She looked at me, pointed to her doll and said, “She’ll tell you her name when you come back with cookies.”  (excerpt from my book Becoming Dead Right)

Patients with dementia find various stimuli engaging, some more than others. It’s important for caregivers to know which approaches are more likely to be successful when working with patients. The Research Institute on Aging of Charles E. Smith Life Communities in Maryland did research to determine stimulus engagement with193 residents of seven Maryland nursing homes. These results were reported in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry:

1)      One-on-one socializing with a research assistant, a real baby, personalized stimuli based on the person's self-identity, a lifelike doll, a respite video, and envelopes to stamp were the most engaging stimuli.

2)      Refusal of stimuli was higher among those with higher levels of cognitive function and related to the stimulus' social appropriateness.

3)      Women showed more attention and had more positive attitudes for live social stimuli, simulated social stimuli, and artistic tasks than did men.

4)      Persons with comparatively higher levels of cognitive functioning were more likely to be engaged in manipulative and work tasks, whereas those with low levels of cognitive functioning spent relatively more time responding to social stimuli.

5)      The most effective stimuli did not differ for those most likely to be engaged and those least likely to be engaged.
Caregivers, particularly those in long-term care facilities, can use these dementia therapy research results when planning engagement stimuli and one-on-one socialization schedules for residents with dementia. This will help caregivers maximize benefits for patients.

As a hospice volunteer in Detroit nursing homes, I observed how easily many patients with dementia enjoyed their close relationships with dolls and stuffed animals. In this video, a daughter does doll therapy with her mother, who is past middle stage dementia. I found this video particularly interesting because, unlike many patients I have observed, this mother freely admits she knows her doll is not a real baby. But she still enjoys nurturing the doll and pretending it is real. The daughter wonders if the doll therapy is truly age appropriate for her mother. This video shares the mother’s response.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

1 comment:

  1. Information about Dementia Therapy is really needed for those who do not about it. Thanks for the post.