Family Life

Alzheimer's patients being given babies is the only thing you need to see today

We're in bits. 

For Valentines day, the volunteers behind Pearls Memory Dolls visited their local nursing home in Louisville. 

They brought toy puppies and baby dolls, wrapped in blankets and given nappies. The reactions of the elderly while gently cradling the babies are so striking, that we need a pack of Kleenex.

They beam as they gently cradle the dolls or pet and scratch the puppies like they would a real dog.  

Sandy Cambron set up Pearl's Memory Babies in honour of her later mother-in-law, who died of Alzheimer's. She then enlisted the help of Shannon Gray Blair, whose own mother is currently resident of the same nursing home. 

In an emotional Facebook post, Blair  thanked the charity for letting her witness the delight of the residents when receiving their dolls.

"My dear friend & co-worker Sandy that gave my mum and her roommate babies. Today she delivered 28 babies and 4 puppies to mum’s entire unit. I was honoured when she asked me to help. I have no words for what I experienced today. I’m amazed by her passion for those affected by dementia/Alzheimer’s."

The touching photos have since gone viral on Facebook. 

Speaking to TODAY, Cambron expressed her delight at the effect the dolls were having on the elderly. 

“It’s overwhelming. It’s just great to know that it’s comforting them.”

"It’s heart-breaking and heart-filling all at the same time because it makes you realise they’re lonely because they’ve lost everything they know,” Blair added.

“It’s almost like Sandy was giving them something back that they’ve lost… immediately, they make a connection with it.”

When Pearl moved to the nursing home she found the transition difficult. Lonely and in a strange place, Cambron and her family tried to comfrot her by giving her toy animals. 

Nothing worked, until, one day, they brought her a baby doll. 

“She immediately took to it and just loved it and kept it by her side the whole time until she passed,” she recalls.

When Pearl passed in 2008, Cambron continued bringing dolls to the nursing home where she eventually gave doll's to Blair's mother and roommate. 

“I didn't understand what I was about to experience,” Blair remembered. “My mum’s roommate had such an overwhelming reaction to the doll — it was very emotional.”

While there is no concrete research around the benefits of doll therapy, carers and families often claim that the dolls greatly improve the patients mood and longevity. 

A spokeswoman for the Alzheimer's Association, noted that meaningful engagement could help to calm agitated patients, improve mood, boost social interaction, and provide a feeling of connection.

“We know that people living with Alzheimer’s — particularly in the later stages — can respond to a variety of different interactions or stimuli. It could be music or art or pets — even dance,” she said. “It’s important to be able to find activities that meet the person with the disease where they are in that moment, and help them enjoy life with dignity.”

Thanks to the publicity of the viral pictures, Pearl's Memory Babies are now fundraising to provide dolls for as many local nursing home residents as they can. 

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