Doll therapy helps residents at Armley care home

8 October 2019

A West Leeds care home is helping people suffering with dementia to take part in daily activities, rebuild their sense of purpose and have meaningful conversations with the help of doll therapy.

Residents at Paisley Lodge, in Armley, now benefit from a specialist doll therapy are, thanks to the ongoing support of a partnership with Nestlé Professional which enhances the 45-bed home’s specialist dementia care.

A form of reminiscence therapy, doll therapy is designed to revive memories of parental responsibility in those living with dementia.

As many as 60-90% of older people experience the distressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, and therapy dolls have been shown to be extremely effective in helping to reduce this.

Doll Therapy was first introduced at Paisley Lodge when one of its residents had regressed into childhood and did not recognise that her children had grown up. 

Her behaviour become erratic and she was hostile to staff and her loved ones when they tried to explain that her children were now adults.

Home manager Pat Woellner knew of the immense benefits that doll therapy can provide and introduced the resident to a life-like baby doll, who she was able to hold and care for.  

The new sense of responsibility and identity recreated the resident’s memories of being a mum and enabled her to share precious memories with family, staff and fellow residents. She became content and happy with her surroundings.

Doll therapy can offer a chance for them to regain a sense of purpose, caring for their charges and chatting to fellow residents and staff about their daily routines.

It can also provide comfort and safety for residents experiencing grief from a loss of their partner. Ms Woellner said:

“One of our residents lost her husband, and the doll helped her to go through the grieving stages.”

Ms Woellner, who has worked in the care sector for over 30 years, added:

“People with dementia are often anxious about their surroundings, the people with whom they interact and their own abilities. This can often result in agitation, poor appetite, loneliness and boredom.

“We have seen the dramatic changes that this therapy brings to our residents. In one case a lady who had been receiving treatment by specialist mental health services for challenging behaviour was discharged by her consultant after just three months because the doll therapy had made such a positive change to her behaviour.

“It’s not just women that benefit from doll therapy. Two of our male residents have enjoyed looking after them too.

“Now it’s a regular occurrence to see them pushing prams along the corridors, stopping to chat to staff and fellow residents about their “baby” and reliving their memories of bringing up their own children.

“I often hold a doll on my hip when doing my walk around the home to check everyone is happy, as it is a great way to start a conversation with residents who may otherwise not wish to engage.

“We now have 15 dolls in the home that are being used by residents and each doll is unique, to suit various individual’s needs.  We have changing stations, pushchairs, feeding equipment and highchairs.”

Paisley Lodge is an Orchard Care Home.

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