According to a recent report in the Guardian, a growing number of care homes in the UK are starting to use ‘doll therapy’ to help dementia patients.
Doll therapy is a controversial approach to dementia care, and not everyone is agreed on whether it is the right approach. ‘Empathy dolls’ are designed to comfort and soothe patients, as well as bringing back happy memories of parenthood when they were wanted and needed. This, according to Caroline Baker, the head of dementia care at Four Seasons Healthcare, gives patients “a sense of meaning and purpose”.
Whilst some care workers in Four Seasons homes, many of which use doll therapy, were resistant to the idea at first, calling it “babyish” and “patronising”, many now recognise the many benefits of the approach. Homes which have tried doll therapy have reported clear benefits including improved communication and speech, a reduction in wandering and a distinct calming effect.
However, not all relatives of dementia patients are so keen on doll therapy. Understandably, it can be quite upsetting to see a loved family member talking to and cuddling a doll in a seemingly infantilised state. Care homes must ensure to explain the approach and its benefits clearly to relatives, and it could be that improved care training for care workers is needed in this area.