Therapy Dolls

A unique tool used in Moran Aged Care Homes are therapy dolls.  Used to provide emotional support for some aged care residents, therapy dolls are particularly helpful for those living with dementia. For many, the doll can take on a comforting presence, becoming a confidante of sorts. Sharing fears and worries with a therapy doll can be cathartic for some residents, providing a safe outlet for expressing anxiety.

At Moran Stockton, some of our residents are assisted by the presence of ‘Ruth’, a huggable therapy doll with brown curly hair, large violet eyes and delicately painted fingernails that look realistic. She has been weighted to feel just like a newborn (between 3 and 4kg).  Knitting clothes or blankets for Ruth also gives some residents great satisfaction and a sense of purpose.

Therapy dolls may resemble play things but serve a purpose far beyond entertainment. Used therapeutically, these dolls provide a physical, tactile tool. For men or women who cared for children in the past, the doll can stimulate memories and encourage reminiscing. People with dementia may feel a sense of validation, role and purpose by caring for the baby doll. One of the primary ways therapy dolls helps manage anxiety or some dementia behaviours is through sensory stimulation. Holding and stroking a therapy doll engages the sense of touch, an important sensory pathway linked to comfort and security. The tactile engagement can divert the focus away from distressing thoughts and onto the physicality of the doll.

Dolls have often been used as an alternative to medication to reduce the impact of behaviours or unmet needs, such as social withdrawal, apathy, aggressive behaviour, restlessness and wandering.  Residents who have moderate to severe dementia or mixed dementia, who are more likely to perceive the doll as being a baby are usually most receptive. People with earlier stages of dementia may like to look at the doll or enjoy holding or dressing it but they are less likely to perceive it as real.

Therapy dolls also come in the form of a small furry dog or cat or other animal that responds in a life-like gentle manner to touch or particular sounds.

Moran offers permanent and respite care in a modern homely environment.  To find out more about how you can join this friendly community, please contact us.


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