Summer turns to fall
Seems like only yesterday
That you began to crawl
So don't be afraid to take that step
I'll catch you when you fall
I don't mind if you leave behind
A few hand prints on the wall
Kenny Rogers - Hand Prints On The Wall
I never wanted an education in dementia or Alzheimer’s, however, you do not pick and choose most of your life lessons. At least I haven’t.
I was drafted into a war, I wasn’t prepared to fight. I wasn’t trained. There wasn't boot camp or a briefing.
This cunning enemy caught me unaware. At the end of this war, I felt like I had earned my Ph.D, and some bumps and bruises to my heart. I am still in the process of recovering. It has not been a journey easily taken.
However, there were some good lessons. One thing I learned is that what is helpful and therapeutic for one dementia patient, doesn’t work for the next. Some therapies are controversial. For instance, doll therapy is highly controversial however it was a huge benefit to my mom, for a short time.
She initiated it. I knew nothing about it. But when she took interest in a life-like baby doll she found in the activities room, I saw with my own eyes what it provided.
I immediately went home and began researching on the Internet. I was curious to know why I had observed the reaction from her that I did, when by this stage of Alzheimer’s my mom was mostly silent and non-emotional.
It was amazing. And yes, it was also strange. To see my mother, cooing and cuddling a doll as if it were her own newborn was a little startling. But as I began to watch her – and I mean really observe her, I saw the light sparkling in her eyes.
She was happy. Her face glowed with emotion. She was nuturing, gentle, and loving.
That doll unlocked something for a moment, deep within. In her failing mind, she was suddenly transported back to a time, when she held her own precious babies. She adored children and babies, and Alzheimer’s couldn’t steal that. Something in her brain switched on. A connection was made.
And so I observed.
I watched, intrigued, as she began to search for a “burp cloth”. She found a blanket and put that over her shoulder. Immediately her mothering instincts kicked in and she rocked the baby, burped the baby, and loved on it. She smiled, as she gently stroked the baby’s cheek.
A staff member was walking past the doorway and my mom called out, “Look!” She wanted to show off her precious bundle. She was so proud and just beamed when they made a fuss over her new baby. She remembered the process of mothering.
I was more than a little stunned. She remembered.
This was a woman who provided childcare in her home, way back in the day before "daycare" really took off. She loved children, and loved taking care of them. She simply adored children.
Art and music as part of dementia therapy we knew about and had experimented with.
Dolls? No one had mentioned this to us.
When I questioned the staff about it, they told me that because it was so controversial, it wasn’t something they could suggest. The dolls were made available by family and friends who donated them to the facility. The memory care patients were welcome to make use of them, on their own.
This happened a few times, before mom became completely bedridden. She eventually lost interest, but for a brief moment here and there she felt needed again. She was useful and young, and caring for someone else.
She was once again a mother, doing what she did best. Loving her babies.
If you would like to explore doll therapy further, here are some links:
Doll Therapy and Alzheimer's
Baby Doll Therapy
Doll Therapy and Dementia
Doll Therapy For Alzheimer's Disease
*The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.
You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1
You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Side By Side - Precious Memories 15