27 August 2013

Doll Therapy for Alzheimer's

My mom's mom, Grandma Hartley, has Alzheimer's Disease. She lived with my mom in 2009-2010. It was so much fun to have her around. I saw her multiple times every week. She would tell me stories from her past, read me her journals, sing songs, recite poetry and we would watch movies together.

It wasn't always pleasant. She would cry. She would say she wanted to be with her husband, Grandpa Hartley, who died 25 years ago. She would try to run away, and was successful a couple times. She would be rude and call names, which is extremely NOT the way she used to be. 

She was so sweet and happy. She would get really giddy late at night... those were some of my favourite times with her. She would always buy us special treats when we visited. She had puzzles, books, games and toys at her house for her grandchildren to play with. She was kind and loving.

She's still very loving. Much more so now in fact.

Last week I drove to Canada to go to my cousin's wedding. It was the first time I'd seen my grandmother in almost 3 years. When she was living with my mom, she went on a visit to Cardston, her hometown. Some of her children decided that she was better off living in an "old folks home" in Cardston, rather than with her daughter, so they got her a room and she's been in a "home" ever since. So sad.

Before I went on my trip, I had read about Doll Therapy for alzheimer's patients. The idea is to give them a doll. They then feel like they have something to do. It obviously does not do anything to improve memory, but because nurturing a baby or child is such a natural instinct, the patients often will "adopt" the doll as their own child. Their quality of life improves because they have a new found purpose. How sweet is that? 

I went to target with my mom and girls, to pick out a doll. I told Annabelle is was going to be a present for Grandma Hartley- whom she only knew through pictures. Annabelle was ecstatic to bring a present with us to give to Grandma Hartley. We found a beautiful doll with dark brown hair- just like my grandma had when she was a child. The doll's eye's close when you lay her down even.  We thought it would be perfect. We were right.

Driving up to her home and getting the doll out of the trunk made me nervous. I was very excited, but I'd read that sometimes the patients rejected the doll. Sometimes the doll would frighten them or make them upset. Regardless, Annabelle wanted to hold Grandma's doll to give to her. When we walked in, I almost didn't recognize her. No one dyes her hair anymore, so she now has soft white hair. Her face seemed lost, starring into the air.

She didn't notice the doll at first. She did notice my girls. I had been warned that she didn't recognize anyone anymore. She didn't use real words, she talked gibberish, sometimes she's just silent. I was unsure what to expect. After giving her hugs and introducing her to my girls, she said to me, as she was starring into Betsy's eyes, "She's the most beautiful baby I've ever seen." That just warmed my heart. Next she turned to Annabelle and mumbles something about her being the sweetest little girl. Again, I was in awe that she would even acknowledge them.

We walked into her room and sat on her bed. I told her about the doll and wanted to give it to her, but she wasn't interested. I laid the doll on her pillow- for her to discover on her own, as I had read was the best way to introduce the doll. I told her who I was and that I loved her. She looked into my face and had a moment of recognition... I assume... because she looked like she all the sudden knew me and exclaimed, "Oh!" Like she was thinking, Oh! I know you. It was precious.

continued later because i'm going to bed now...

1 comment:

Tiffany Brown Olsen said...

umm. please continue. I assume you got a good night's sleep.