Doll Therapy (Child Representational Therapy)

We often give dolls to young children, particularly girls. We smile indulgently when they nurse and nurture these toys like they would a real infant. It’s fascinating to observe the innate drive to care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Doll therapy, also known as child representational therapy, is a successful form of therapy for supporting people with dementia. It has been found, both anecdotally and clinically, to reduce anxiety and agitation in people with dementia. Indeed, doll therapy can have a truly trans-formative effect for some people, bringing them a sense of purpose, joy and peace.

dementia journalArticle: Doll therapy: A therapeutic means to meet past attachment needs and diminish behaviours of concern in a person living with dementia – a case study approach, L. Bisiani and J. Angus. Dementia 0(0), 2012 1-16

Abstract

The aim of this research study was to examine the impact of the provision of a lifelike baby doll as a therapeutic tool on the behaviour of a person living with dementia. Specifically, this single case study assessed the potential benefits, if any, of the use of doll therapy in reducing behaviours of concern such as anxiety and agitation that may be associated with observed attachment needs of a person living with dementia.

Method: A single case study of a female participant, with moderately advanced Alzheimer’s disease, was the subject of this research. The case study used both qualitative and quantitative research design and methodology in data collection and analysis.

Results: Demonstrated that doll therapy was a positive intervention for the person living with dementia who was the participant in this research. The findings indicate a reduction in behaviours of concern related to the need for attachment and a considerable decline in levels of anxiety and agitation. There was extensive ongoing improvement in social interaction and communication.

Conclusion: This research supports doll therapy as a therapeutic intervention that may be utilized within the ongoing care of some persons with dementia to meet needs for attachment and to reduce behaviours of concern. Despite some controversy on this topic, doll therapy should be considered as a therapeutic approach to further dementia care in light of this positive outcome.

Note: should you be interested in this article please request it through our handy form.

 

DVD: Jack: Quality of life in Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Australia Tas, 2006Jack

This DVD is a delight to watch. The care and love Jack lavishes on his ‘babies’ is beautiful to behold. Interspersed with commentary from professionals, staff who care for Jack and Jack’s daughter it tells a wonderful story about how the life of a person with dementia was transformed through person-centered care.

 

Clinical Practice Guidelines: Child Representational Therapy in Dementia Care, Dementia Behaviour Advisory Service (DBMAS), June 2009

Child representational therapyThis Australian federal government guidelines document outlines how to implement doll therapy, who would benefit from it, communication between caregivers regarding the therapy and additional special notes and precautions.

 

Article: Growing number of care homes using controversial doll therapy on people with dementia, Sue Learner, 5 March 2014

Doll therapy is being used in a growing number of care homes, yet it is still seen as a controversial intervention despite its benefits. Read article.

 

Article: The use of doll therapy to help improve well-being, Leah Bisani and Jocelyn Angus. Australian Journal of Dementia Care 2(3), June/July 2013

AJDC_coverLeah Bisani and Jocelyn Angus discuss the role of doll therapy in working with people with dementia, and how it can be incorporated into a person’s present reality with dignity and respect.

Note: should you be interested in this article please request it through our handy form.

Article: The Therapeutic Use of Doll Therapy, Dr Daniel Nightingale. Dementia Therapy Care Iss. 2, Fall 2013

From the article:

“On numerous occasions, whilst visiting communities that provide care and support to people living with dementia, I come across ladies who carry with them dolls or cuddly toys.

At first sight, one might think this behavior childlike, a return to infantilism or even totally and completely age inappropriate…”

Note: should you be interested in this article please request it through our handy form.

Catalogue: Sensory Products Summer Catalogue, Summer 2013.

Alzheimer’s Australia SA offers a sales service which includes infant-style dolls for purchase. Refer to the catalogue, page 13 for details on the dolls. Order forms at the end of the catalogue.

Article: Older adults’ views and experiences of doll therapy in residential care homes, H. Alander, T. Prescott, Ian A James. Dementia 13(4), July 2013

dementia journalAbstract

Background and purpose: The mechanisms underlying the success of doll therapy are poorly understood. The aims of this study were to explore how people in care, doll users and non-users, make sense of doll use in their settings.

Methodology: A grounded theory approach was used, recruiting participants from three residential care homes involving four male and 12 female residents. Data collection occurred in two phases; five participants took part in a focus group and later 11 participants were interviewed individually. Eight of the 11 participants had dementia, and four participants were actively using dolls.

Results and conclusion: The results are presented as themes, and sub-themes, consisting of four main categories (intrapersonal features, interpersonal features, behavioural benefits, ethical and moderating factors). This thematic analysis shows that residents generally support the use of dolls, believing that dolls can have a positive impact on some users. The mechanisms by which this impact is achieved are discussed together with the ethical concerns.

Note: should you be interested in this article please request it through our handy form.

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