In July 2013, I bought Mum a baby doll, a pretty realistic looking one at that. Not long after buying the doll – available with a variety of different faces – I came to realize why I had chosen this particular one.
After sorting through a lot of old family photographs, I came across one of me as a baby. The doll Mum has, called Charlie, is very similar in appearance to the photo of me! Clearly some kind of subconscious recognition going on there, and probably one of the reasons why Mum loves it so much.
Seven months down the road of experimenting, this particular doll has proven to be a complete success. Mum loves Charlie (my late Dad’s name, not mine). She talks to him, and kisses and cuddles him. Occasionally, she even tries to feed him. To say she is incredibly protective of him, would be a major understatement.
She talks to him, and tells him how good he is. If Mum gets upset or agitated, Charlie is there to help calm her, and indeed to help distract her from whatever is causing her distress.
When people visit, they are also amazed by the positive effects Charlie has had on Mum.
While doll therapy doesn’t work with all of those living with dementia, when it does – as in this case – it is clearly very beneficial.
Dolls seem to bring out the genetically acquired nurturing instinct, more especially in women, but not necessarily so, as they have been found to work with men as well. Many of us have an inbuilt protective instinct which appears when we sense vulnerability.
For Mum, seven months on, doll therapy, using this particular doll, definitely seems to be working.
From my own experience, I would definitely say “give it a go!”
The doll used is from the Berenguer range http://www.berenguerdolls.net/
For more from Martyn Feather, a West Sussex-based blogger, go to Design4Dementia