Doll Therapy for dementia: Laali – my mom’s new friend

IMG_2802Written by Mr Biren Yadav, who has retired from Indian Army. He shares his journey as a dementia caregiver to his mother and how doll therapy has given her a new lease of life.

Mataji (my octogenarian mother) was diagnosed with dementia, an irreversible and terminal brain disease, about 3 years back. She had been showing symptoms since at least last 5 years, but we failed to notice them due to our ignorance about the disease.

Dr. Kubler Ross a Swiss psychiatrist worked extensively with terminally ill patients to propose the Five Stages of Grief ( Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) through which a person facing death goes through. The five stages also apply to the near and dear ones of a terminally ill patient. We too went through these stages, though not necessarily in the same order. The arduous journey spread over half a decade tested the unity and resolve of the family to the limit. The roller coaster ride took us through negative emotions like guilt, frustration, helplessness, anger, as also intermittent periods of hope and jubilation on seeing some positive outcome of our efforts. Of course we had support from our family, relatives and well wishers, but I and my wife remained the prime caregivers as she has been residing with us.

We have finally accepted the reality and are trying our best to make her remaining years enjoyable, happy and pain free. We make efforts to learn about the disease through books, internet and organizations specialized in dementia care. It was some time back when my daughter suggested doll therapy as she saw a video on the subject, however, the suggestion got lost in the daily struggles. In the mean time mother was getting more and more dependent for her daily routine forcing us to replace Sompal our male domestic help, with a female attendant. Sompal was very affectionate and fond of my mother and would visit her often, during one of his fortnightly visits he got a doll for Mataji from his first pay. Mother almost grabbed the doll and held it tightly against her bosom showering frenzied hugs and kisses. It appeared as if she had been united with her long lost baby.

Laali (as mother has named her!) is an endearment for a girl child, has brought a breath of fresh air in her life. Mother grooms and dresses her up and shows her to all with great pride. She has almost stopped wandering in the night. She talks to her, sings to her, rocks her, dresses her up. The bouts of anger and anxiety have come down and she is much more relaxed and comfortable. It is now easy to calm her down by distracting through the doll. Also her hysterical bouts of ‘I am going home’, which always drive us crazy have become less forceful. Doll therapy in my opinion has probably provided her two basic needs i.e. companionship and means of communication.

It appears that the doll has filled the vacuum created by the lost memories and has transported her to that phase which was possibly the most enjoyable and fulfilling for her. The therapy has possibly improved her self-esteem as she has overnight become a caregiver instead of being a passive care receiver. Perhaps she must have had discovered a purpose and also the status of an active contributing member of society which is visible in her new found confidence. Lot of her vocabulary has also returned as she talks effortlessly and fluently with Laali showering her with motherly overindulgence.

She has stopped wandering at night. It appears that the doll has brought back happy memories of motherhood and made her feel useful and needed.

The other day when Sompal visited Mataji I asked him as to how he decided to go for the doll. He took us by surprise saying that he had researched about dementia patients online and found mention of doll therapy. He got the doll from Chandni Chowk for Rs. 3000. It has been almost two months since the arrival of Doll and it continues to enthrall my mother.

We at Samvedna Senior Care aim to help seniors live happy, active and independent lives, in the comfort of their home and community through interactive caregiving.

Samvedna Senior Care was established in October 2013 with two complementary goals – firstly to provide quality home care services to seniors with limited mobility or dementia and hence social interaction, and secondly to facilitate stimulating community interaction and participation.

Our Dementia Care services are

At-home services –
Dementia intervention activities by trained Care Specialists (already mentioned above). These services are available in Delhi NCR and Guwahati
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Please call us for more info – Delhi NCR – 98184 21446, 124 4229659 | Guwahati – 9864015872

Dementia Support Group –
Our Dementia Support group in Delhi NCR and Guwahati is a platform for caregivers to share feelings and support each other.
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Please call us for more info – Delhi NCR – 98184 21446, 124 4229659 | Guwahati – 9864015872

Cognitive Wellness Programme, Sector 57  Gurgaon  –
Samvedna’s Cognitive Wellness Programme is designed for seniors with mild cognitive impairment, early dementia or Parkinson’s, and elderly lacking in enthusiasm and motivation. The aim is to stimulate the mind of the elderly to slow the progression of the disease or impairment. The sessions are 3 days a week, 11AM-1PM.
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General Wellbeing:

With our General Well Being Services we aim to raise the quality of life of seniors, specially those who may have limited mobility and social interaction due to various constraints. Our interactive programme keeps them active and engaged through physical, mental and social activities, all in the comfort of their home.

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