A calming doll for Alzheimer’s patients


Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County recently donated $371 to the Young at Heart Caregiver Program to purchase a True Touch doll and Moses basket for use in caring for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. From left, are Hospital Interim CEO Irene Richardson, YAH Caregiver Program Coordinator Alyse Russell, Access Care Coordinator and Supervisor of In-Home Services Emmy Nielsen and YAH Executive Director Ryan Rust.

ROCK SPRINGS – Young at Heart’s caregiver coordinator spent months looking for the right doll.

Alyse Russell has a clientele of care recipients who are largely Alzheimer’s patients. Research, she says, shows that when a doll is given to Alzheimer’s patients, the patient often is calmed, their focus diverted from what was otherwise upsetting to them.

She believes the best fit for her clients is the True Touch doll, along with a “Moses basket” for safe sleeping and keeping when it’s not being held by one of the center’s care recipients. The dolls are lifelike in appearance and touch — made to “breathe” and with “heartbeats.”

Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County wanted to help with those efforts. It recently donated $371 to pay for one doll and basket.

“Health care comes in a variety ways,” said Irene Richardson, MHSC interim CEO. “These dolls are a good example of how something so simple can have such a profound effect.

“Young at Heart’s Caregiver Program is to be commended for its work in the community. It’s a program that can help so many,” Richardson said.

The YAH nurses currently are using a doll at Deer Trail. Another, a preemie that is on loan, recently was used by a YAH client with dementia.

“The CNAs are checking them out and bringing them back,” Russell said.

YAH hopes to buy at least two more dolls for the CNAs to take with them to clients and another two for people to check out “like a lending closet” arrangement, she said.

Research shows it can be a way to help ease fear or aggression, Russell said.

Some law enforcement officers carry teddy bears in their cars to use when dealing with children, she explained. The dolls can have a similar effect on Alzheimer’s patients.

“My grandma had Alzheimer’s,” said Emmy Nielsen, YAH Access Care coordinator and supervisor of home services. “She sat with the baby doll and thought it was my dad. She was content, because she knew she had to take care of this baby.”

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