They may be the constant companions of young children, but as new study by researchers from Newcastle General Hospital has found, dolls and teddy bears can also help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease interrelate and communicate with others.
As a part of the study, researchers gave 14 patients in a Newcastle nursing home a doll or a teddy bear. Their behaviour was then assessed over a period of 3 months.
The researchers found that Alzheimer’s patients are able to bond over the care of dolls and toys as it gives them something to talk about.
They also discovered that caring for the toys not only alleviates agitation or distress in patients, but also helped them overcome communication difficulties, as well as reduce withdrawal.
Dr Ian James, who worked on the study, said though using toys to help Alzheimer’s patients had been studied before, the current research studied the use of dolls over a longer period of time.
|Caring for the toys not only alleviates agitation or distress in patients, but also helped them overcome communication difficulties, as well as reduce withdrawal|
"Using toys to help people with dementia has been looked at before as it is an important, non-drug based approach to behaviour disturbances in dementia residents. What we have done with this study is to look at their use over a longer time period and to investigate whether patients chose to have a doll or teddy bear," the BBC quoted him, as saying.
"We found people who wouldn't have spoken at all before would speak. Clearly, using a doll doesn't reverse dementia, but it did seem to improve quality of life," he said.
Clive Evers, director of information at the Alzheimer's Society, said that the research showed the importance of engaging people suffering from dementia in “meaningful activities”.
"This exciting and innovative research shows how important it is to engage people in meaningful activities in all stages of dementia. Reminiscence and attachment therapy is one way to connect with people in the later stages of dementia," he said.
The research was presented to a British Psychological Society Conference recently.