A baby’s smile or laugh can change a person’s entire day. Whether it is the baby’s parent, grandparent, or just a family friend, the impact babies have on others is significant.
Jessie Ball’s daughter Sandra learned how significant of an impact that a baby could have on the elderly. Even if that baby isn’t real, but is instead a doll.
Jessie is Sandra’s 94-year-old mother. Jessie was diagnosed with dementia five years ago and recently moved into a residential home in the UK. But while there, Jessie became ill and started to deteriorate even further.
Sandra and her siblings would visit their mother and found that Jessie had tried to cook french fries using dish cleaner.
Any time the siblings would visit their mother in the home, they remarked on how miserable she seemed. Jessie would keep asking her children when she was allowed to leave.
Jessie’s sorrow has turned around, however, after her children gave her a new gift. They found a doll in a charity shop and decided to give it to Jessie.
“I’d seen babies being used [with dementia patients] before but hadn’t thought about it with my mum until Carol [Jackson, 65, Sandra’s sister] bought her one,” Sandra told Cater News.
Doll therapy is a newer, common practice among patients with dementia. Gary Mitchell, author of Doll Therapy in Dementia Care: Evidence and Practice, says doll therapy gives people with dementia an anchor and sense of attachment.
Patients with dementia care for their dolls, as a way to keep them active and help ease any anxiety, aggression, or confusion that they might be feeling. Sandra had seen this being used and decided to try it with her mother Jessie.
“As soon as my sister handed her the doll, she took to it straight away. Mum named it Gizzy, which is also her Shih Tzu, Gizmo’s, nickname,” Sandra said.
Jessie’s health has gone downhill, but she keeps her baby doll by her side. Jessie will feed the baby doll whenever she is eating and sing to her. Sandra took a video of her mother singing and it is bittersweet.
It isn’t entirely clear if Jessie knows the baby isn’t real but is just a doll, but her love for the baby is evident in how she sings sweetly to the doll.
Before when Sandra and her siblings would leave their mother, they felt guilty because Jessie was so sad to see them go. But now that she has Gizzy, Jessie is content to stay behind and care for the baby.
After posting the video of her mother singing, Sandra has gotten mixed reviews, some condemning her for videotaping her mother in such a state. But others are very supportive of what Sandra and her siblings have done for their mother.
“I’ve also had many messages from other carers saying it moved them. I decided to share it with the world because my friend said it’s so sad yet so beautiful.”
Many others have told Sandra they plan to try this with their parents who have dementia. The baby doll not only comforts Jessie, but it comforts her entire family now.
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