Notice lady with her stuffed doll
Notice lady with her stuffed doll

There are a number of alternative therapies such as music therapy, aromatherapy, sensory/tactile activities, and creating memory boxes that enhance quality of life for people with dementia. Until eight years ago, another approach to reduce agitation and aggression, tendency to wander, use of psychotropic drugs, and to increase interaction and communication with family and staff members had divided criticism and support. Doll therapy has been described by critics as childish, patronizing, or demeaning, but current research shows there are definite benefits including something important to hold, kiss, hug, talk to, feed, and/or dress, reduced episodes of distress, improved dietary intake, and overall well-being. Doll therapy was first used in connection with child attachment then later introduced to older people with dementia due to the compulsion to search for their parents. This common sign, usually seen in later stages of dementia, is associated with the need for safety with a familiar figure. Although doll therapy may not work for every person with dementia, it is one to consider.

Aspen caregivers have used doll therapy a number of times with clients who display a genuine need for security and soothing. One lady holds her doll constantly: she shows it affection throughout the day at the Center and carries it home. Another client is given her doll in the afternoon when she becomes anxious. The doll is returned to a shelf until the next time she needs comfort. Men can benefit from a stuffed animal, such as a teddy bear. It is important not to force a person to accept a doll or make judgments: allow the individual to respond to the doll in his/her own way by encouraging them with appropriate words and actions if they wish to use the doll. Rejection should be respected.



Mitchell, G. (2014). Use of doll therapy for people with dementia: an overview. Nursing Older People, 26(4), 24-26. Retrieved from

Mitchell, G. & O’Donnell, H. (2013). The therapeutic use of doll therapy in dementia. British Journal of Nursing, 22(6), 329-334. Retrieved from


Additional reading

Browne, C.J. & Shlosberg, E. (2006). Attachment theory, ageing and dementia: a review of the literature. Aging & Mental Health, 10(2), 134-142. Retrieved from

Mackenzie, L., James, I.A., Morse, R., Mukaetova-Ladinska, E., & Richelt, F. K. (2006). A pilot study on the use of dolls for people with dementia. Age & Ageing, 35(4), 441-444. Retrieved from




Doll Therapy for Dementia: Good or Bad?