Doll Therapy Reduces Drug Dependency of Alzheimer’s Sufferers

Encouraging Alzheimer’s sufferers to take care of plastic dolls may seem like an unusual type of therapy but it’s been proving to have a positive effect, so much so, it’s aided in reducing patients’ dependency on psychotropic drugs.
When a person develops Alzheimer’s they lose interest in life, become withdrawn and uncommunicative. It can become difficult to interest them in activities.
Doll therapy involves giving a doll to a female patient to care for. This may seem, on the outside, patronising, but patients can obtain a great deal of joy and comfort from a doll. Many women sufferers were housewives and due to the unfortunate effects of dementia, many believe that they are still young. Patients can often adopt the baby and treat it as if it were real; they dress it, sing to and interact with it.
The latest research suggests that the doll brings back happy memories of when they had been parents. The dolls fulfill a maternal need. Having a doll can rekindle all types of positive memories and emotions, of loving, of being loved and being needed. A person with Alzheimer’s may still have a need for a role which will give them a sense of purpose and usefulness.
Through the use of the dolls, it also allows patients to release repressed emotions; to explain their feelings, as they will often transfer their emotional state onto the doll.
A doll can also play a number of roles to the sufferer and they are often referred to as their husbands, wives, or any other significant person in their life.
The dolls also stimulate greater communication between the relatives, staff and the patient. Staff and the patient talk about the doll, its clothes, hair, etc.
Dolls are, of course, not a cure and the sufferer will not suddenly transform back to their former self because of a doll, but they have a marked effect on sufferers’ behaviour, reducing agitation, aggression and wandering.
According to the Nursing Times, a care home has reported to have drastically reduced its patients’ dependency on psychotropic drugs thanks to alternative treatments including doll therapy.
Ashcroft Care Home based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK, has reported that it has cut the amount of patients using psychotropic drugs from 92 per cent at the start of 2008 to 28 percent.
There is much debate currently with regard to psychotropic drugs; they are contentious form of treatment as they act on a patients’ nervous system which can cause them to experience mood changes and other negative side-effects.
Caroline Baker from the Four Seasons Health Care which operates Ashcroft said: “The results we are seeing from reduced medication and providing complementary therapies have been phenomenal.”

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