The popularity and acceptance of empathy doll therapy has grown tremendously within recent years, as the practice and it’s benefits have become more clearly understood. Find Memory Care have designed a therapy doll which remains within the guidelines and suggestions of current research. The weight, balance, size and features are expertly designed to encourage users to engage with the doll.
Research Coordinator and Nurse Specialist at Four Seasons Health Care, Gary Mitchell, provides Find Memory Care with his insight on doll therapy, as he explains the profound impact it can have within care homes. Gary noticed that there was limited literature available on doll therapy, so he decided to write a book which considers all the elements of the practice. His book, entitled Doll Therapy in Dementia Care, provides recommendations for utilisation of doll therapy for people with dementia.
Gary states: “There has been some empirical research carried out on the therapeutic use of dolls for people living with dementia and findings have been encouraging. For readers who are not familiar, doll therapy is achieved when a person living with dementia engages with a doll. Engagement comes in a variety of forms, for example holding the doll, talking to the doll, cuddling or hugging the doll, feeding the doll and dressing the doll. The benefits associated with doll therapy include; increased levels of engagement with other people, reduction in episodes of distress, improved dietary intake and generally an increased level of wellbeing. Indeed the therapeutic use of doll therapy has been growing globally with widespread use in the UK, Australia, Japan and the USA”.
Gary continues: “Despite the aforementioned benefits of doll therapy… doll therapy can be perceived as infantile, childish, demeaning and patronising. Admittedly, these were the feelings that I had when I first observed doll therapy in my nursing practice at Four Seasons Health Care. However, through exposure and education I have not only accepted doll therapy – I have embraced it. The very fact that there was limited literature available on doll therapy was one of the main reasons that I decided to write the first published book on doll therapy in dementia care”.
Gary continues: “Current empirical research has highlighted that it is difficult for even the most experienced practitioners to predict how a person living with dementia will respond to doll therapy. That being stated, it appears from the literature that people living with an advanced form of dementia appear to be the biggest users of doll therapy. It has been postulated that the reason for this is related to the need for attachment in a time of greater uncertainty. For people living with dementia a doll can arguably act as an anchor in an ever-changing sea of uncertainty”.
As Find Memory Care acknowledges the sensitivity that must accompany the practice of doll therapy, we have partnered with Gary Mitchell to make his ground breaking publication, Doll Therapy in Dementia Care, available for purchase on our website. Find Memory Care Therapy Dolls are also available for purchase here.
For any questions, queries or additional reading on the therapeutic use of dolls for people living with dementia Gary Mitchell is available to contact via Twitter @GaryMitchellRN or via email: Gary.Mitchell@fshc.co.uk