Can 'Doll Therapy' Help Put Dementia Patients at Ease?

Medical center finds that simply holding baby dolls makes some elders happy

FRIDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- A Pennsylvania medical center that frequently treats older people has found that geriatric patients in need of soothing seem to benefit from a type of therapy that involves dolls.

At Geisinger Medical Center, nurses affiliated with Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders, a national geriatric program, began experimenting with what they call "baby doll therapy." The therapy includes offering dolls to elderly patients, including those with complex medical conditions who might have physical and mental limitations, and in some cases dementia or delirium -- conditions that sometimes lead to people becoming agitated during routine care.

"It is an effective therapy for improving dementia patients' quality of life," nurse Tami Underhill said in a medical center news release. "It is also one of the easier therapies, if not the easiest, to administer."

Previous research had linked the act of carrying and handling dolls to greater focus, improved attitude and enhanced communication in older people with dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, hospitals, nursing homes and hospice care facilities have tried baby doll therapy.

"Not only do we want our patients to be healthy, but we want them to be happy," Underhill said. "The dolls are just a simple means to that end."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about dementia.

Randy Dotinga SOURCE: Geisinger Health System, news release, April 27, 2011

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