Actionmarguerite is known for its innovative practices to enhance the well-being of its residents. Doll therapy is another step forward in managing behaviours in residents with dementia at Actionmarguerite Saint-Boniface.
“The baby-dolls therapy sessions can have a mitigating effect on residents’ behaviour by giving them a purpose,” says Josée Fournier, Manager of Resident Services. For many residents, baby-doll therapy also brings a sense of comfort. “Male and female residents alike, their parental instinct kicks in. The doll reminds them of old times.” Alzheimer’s disease alters different cognitive functions, different memories. Nevertheless, the affective memory, the emotional one and the capacity to enter into contact with people remain kept for a long time. We must capitalize on this. We often try to revive deteriorated cognitive functions without success, but we may continue to interact at the emotional level ‘I feel therefore I am’. This is the message conveyed to our employees during our educational sessions; the contact through emotions and the relationship make all the difference in the care for persons with dementia.”
Committed to the success of this new initiative, Actionmarguerite has acquired six specialized baby-dolls for the persons with dementia. These dolls, with very similar traits to real babies, have the ability to calm anxiety for residents and to channel them. Some would consent more easily to achieve daily tasks (grooming, meals) by contact with these dolls.
“They are designed to be as lifelike as possible,” says Susie Piad, Recreational Therapist on the specialized dementia units. “We have also put a cradle, rocking chairs, blankets and decorations in the unit.”
Doll therapy is based on research that shows “giving to a resident with dementia something they have to take care of makes them feel useful”, says Susie Piad. “What’s important is what the resident believes is real, not what we know is real. Some of the residents perceive the baby-dolls as real babies while others know very well that they are toys. The calming effect and the benefits of this therapy remain the same,” adds Piad. The residents may look indifferent, and when they see the baby-doll, they begin to sing softly, cradle or give smiles to the babies. We see right away if it works or not.

Actionmarguerite invites you to view the CBC television story at the following link on this important topic: