BBC website's gone AD mad


Registered User
Feb 14, 2005
Doll therapy

BBC Link
Doll therapy is being used in my husbands ward with some success. Some relatives were not happy with their loved ones being given the dolls but I felt it was worth trying.
My huband was fantastic when the girls were babies and he hasnt lost his touch. It is extremly emotional for me to watch him cradle his doll just like he did his own children.


Registered User
May 27, 2005
Howdy folks - hope you don't mind me butting in here :)

Very interesting article on Doll Therapy... I've rad loads on this but have never seen it in practice - thanks for sharing some insight into that, Pat.

Here is something that I have experienced though one (I'm a Staff Nurse working on a Dementia Assessment Ward by the way) -

One lady who had been brought a teddy bear by a relative... it was hard to ascertain what she identified this as, due to communication difficulties, but would often walk around with it, and sit it on it's own chair and talk to it etc.

Now I have nothing against that... but some of the other patients commented...

"Look at her! A grown woman walking around with a teddy bear" etc.

And although you'd discuss tis with them, it wouldn't dissuade them from their comments - they were just voicing their opinions though which they are indeed entitled to.

And I can remember a similar incident in a residential home my auntie was in, and one of the residents had a plush pig soft toy... unfortunately, she was referred to as 'The Pig Lady' by a lot of the residents, many of whom were not tolerant or understanding of this (many of whom did not have dementia, although the lady in question did).

So what's my point?

Simply this - I wonder if there is a certain stigma attached to this... I would love to see it applied as a therapy in order to make an informed judgement, but I feel that it would have to be EVERYONE doing it to see this work effectively.

So if anyone else has any info. on this based on what they've seen or read, please can you post here - would love to hear more.

Thanks again for posting, mojofilter.




Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
I wonder if it's really a big issue for the AD sufferer. To begin with, although from the outside these may seem like hurtful comments, I wonder how much a dementia sufferer actually notices such things. After all, they don't sometime take much notice of pleasant comments, why would they notice unpleasant ones? You only have to look at some of the stories on these boards to realise that someone with AD is just as likely to swear black is white and be absolutely convinced that the person telling them otherwise is wrong. So if someone carries around a bear, or whatever, and thinks it's a child or a pet, for example no amount of comments will persuade them otherwise. So while such things might be difficult for staff or loved ones to hear, if the AD sufferer is sufficiently progressed that such a thing might comfort them, I doubt that comments would impact. Mind you, it also goes to show that if someone is unpleasant and judgemental, they don't get any better with age!
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Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
I gave my mother a microwaveable teddy bear to try to keep her warm in the winter, I was impressed that she learned how to microwave it (she wouldn't have a microwave before she got ill), she was very fond of the bear for a few weeks and it functioned as a substitute for her imaginary friends, ("it isn't a real bear you know"), but then he turned into a "bad bear" and was thoroughly thumped and thrown out of bed and had to be rescued from the dustbin. She was very annoyed with me when she saw me holding it as if it were a baby, (previously she'd told me you have to hold it carefully like this, supporting its head, when I was holding by one leg), and in the end it was "I won't have that bear in my house" so I had to take it away.


Registered User
Mar 16, 2005
Please see previous thread about doll therapy:

Last Summer, the staff introduced several dolls at my Dad's home. Some residents take no notice of them, while some pick them from time to time and walk around with them. One resident in particular likes to walk around with a doll, handbag and as many cushions as she can manage!

Having started out rather sceptical, I am now definitely an advocate of doll therapy. If it brings pleasure, why not? :)

As for hurtful comments, most of the people in Dad's home are at a stage where reacting with dolls does not seem strange to them.


Registered User
Oct 23, 2003
West Sussex
Hiya, my Mum had a microwaveable bear too, loved it so much, when she died we put it in her coffin with her. She called it Bruno. Sometimes I think she thought of it more as a pet as she too talked to it, just like we talk to our pets. If it makes someone happy, why worry what others think anyway? Love She. XX


Registered User
Feb 14, 2005
From what I have experienced Doll therapy is controlled. I havent seen any patients walking around with one.Those patients who do tend to be carrying something very personal to them especially the ladies with their handbags. Patients are taken in groups just as with music therapy.The reaction to these dolls can be fleeting as obviously concentration is limited. I've seen them fired to the floor ,A gentleman wanting a boy not a girl (blue doll), all have different reactions.
I feel if the whole ward was making comments to my husband or anyone on the ward about what they were holding or carrying it wouldnt make the slightest difference.


Registered User
May 10, 2006
PatH said:
Those patients who do tend to be carrying something very personal to them especially the ladies with their handbags.
We have more problems because of my mum and her handbag than anything else..... Well that and her constant singing or "Rock and Roll Waltz"..... Ok, that's not really a problem because she used to sing it to me when I was a baby. But after she's been singing it for 4 hours you kind of want her to change the record :eek:


Registered User
When my mum was in her 2nd years of AD, she loved to cuddly those old fashion dolls that look scary, my untie had a few of them mum would just walk around with it, then when mum went in to emergency respite I use to see lots of people with teddies on there bed or laying around on the chair , gosh I still love my teddies my daughters Barbie’s bring back happy memories of my childhood ,why should we be surprised that it would not give comfort to someone with dementia even grown men must of have teddy’s or action men that they played with talk to when they where children

Nutty Nan

Registered User
Nov 2, 2003

Our house is littered with all sorts of toys, and they are all there to keep my hubby busy: they are colourful, safe and washable, they give us something to talk about, and my husbands spends most of his time carrying them around or stuffing them into his pockets, occasionally chewing them or trying to pull them apart, all depending on the mood he is in. There are balls and wooden bricks, several dolls, clowns, teddies, frogs and monkeys, and I often find him chatting to one or the other of them in a very serious voice - that's when I know he is relaxed and contented!
I have bought a 'giggle ball', a soft fabric ball with a face and a voice inside: when it is squeezed, it gives off a delightful giggle, just like a little girl. This rarely fails to get a positive reaction - from both of us!

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
Toronto, Canada
My mother's LTCF uses dolls like the ones pictures on the website. They have a couple per unit (30 residents to a unit, 6 units total). I've seen several of the residents with the doll. I haven't seen my mother with one yet but I did buy her a teddy bear from the local Alzheimer Society.

I must explain that - It's a major fund-raiser. They buy several hundred bears - very good quality ones & different ones each year - and then volunteers knit little sweaters. The bears are the "Forget-Me-Not Bears". Each sweater is different & gorgeous. The average cost would be £15 - £18. So gorgeous. I'll try & take a picture of mine & post it in the Tea Room.

Never mind that big digression - my mother does cuddle her bear sometimes. So if something brings happiness, I'm all for it.


Registered User
May 27, 2005
Many thanks for all your input there folks - would like to see this in practice at some point - if I get the opportunity, I'll post and let you know.

Again, very much appreciated - you've certainly all given me stuff to think about here.




Registered User
May 14, 2006
Dolls and toys

When my Mum's dog died four and a half years ago, I bought her a soft, cuddly, black toy dog which she called Blackie and kept on her window sill. Since she has been in the NH, she has cuddled the soft toy dog whenever she has been distressed and the staff have used it as a comforter. She also has two teddies in her room and quite a few other soft toys, which I have to keep at home because of lack of space. Mum talks to the toys, (although she knows they are not real) and they are something to talk about. She pretends they are naughty children and makes up little stories about them. Her friend in the NH actually believes the dog is real and Mum needs to feed her "children" (teddy bears).
Not many of the other residents have soft toys, but in another NH, many of the residents had soft toys and teddies. I think it is a good focus point and something for the person to touch and handle. Mum stays in her room most of the time and is hard of hearing, so comments from other people would probably not be noticed.


Registered User
Jun 3, 2005
Like so many other things, when the media pick up on something like this, they often over-simplify the story and completely miss the point & thinking behind the 'therapy'.

My theory is that having a cuddle-doll, teddy bear, toy dog (or a real one) may be a huge relief to someone struggling with dementia, in that they are undemanding.
We 'carers' feel that we are under constant unrelenting pressure & strain, but the person inside who is struggling to keep their head above water, keep their sanity, and struggling not to put undue demands on their loved ones ("I don't want to be a burden" - how many times do we hear that!) is under similar pressures. They can't get away from it either. What a relief to them it must be to cuddle, stroke or talk to something which has no expectations of them, doesn't need them to explain or do anything or try to make sense of the confusing world around them.

And Lila -
he turned into a "bad bear" and was thoroughly thumped and thrown out of bed and had to be rescued from the dustbin
I can completely identify with your Mum's actions (although not claiming to know what she was thinking at the time!)
I quite often feel like giving some inanimate being a good kicking, or throwing it against a wall, to relieve the bloody frustration! Therapy indeed!


Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
near London
I have my own theories here.

A recurring theme is that people with dementia believe that things have been stolen from them - money, their home, their life, etc.

So they will grab and hold something, which might be a bear, or a towel, or tissues, etc and hang on to it/them because in their world, something in their hand is something that they can feel is theirs, and while it is in their hand, no-one can have stolen it/them.

Yesterday, one lady at Jan's home was carrying a bear, plus a cushion, plus a cup. Try to take them from her at your peril, and she is 75-80, perfectly able to defend what is hers [none of them actually are hers, of course].

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