Independent Arts began using baby dolls in nurture reminiscence sessions at care homes in 2016 and the results have been encouraging and surprising.
The dolls are soft and lifelike, quite different in look and feel to a traditional hard plastic toy doll. In fact it's important to say that they are not toys.
A lot of the research about the use of dolls in dementia has examined attachment theories. People with dementia will often repeatedly seek those they were attached to in their lives, searching for a parent, or grandparent. They may also look to attach themselves to a particular carer or other resident. The introduction of dolls in such instances has been remarkable, with noticeable changes in behaviour.
Speaking about her work with dolls at Fairview care home in Newport, practitioner Gill Smith recalls:
“A man who was often restless and wandering was noticeably calmer after holding the baby doll. He clearly remembered holding his own son and the baby became his for a while. The expression on his face was so touching, and the carers remarked how he was visibly calmer."
Chrissy, Senior Carer at Fairvew, says:
“Residents are visibly calmer when they are nursing the dolls, sometimes they will begin to sing to them, and often they will start to tell you about their own children.“
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"Using baby dolls in session with a lady who had difficulty communicating. We sang nursery rhymes to the baby, and she suddenly joined in and actually knew the words better than I!"
Gill Smith (below), Nurture Reminiscence Practitioner