This small insight is based on my own experience helping my Mum, who has vascular dementia.
Mum has had cuddly toys for many years, for the most part, they were generally consigned to a shelf in her wardrobe. However, since being diagnosed with vascular dementia, such toys have played a more important role in her life.
The importance of these toys became very apparent during her most recent stay in hospital. I took her a number of toys just after she was first admitted, her face lit up when she saw them. They stayed with her, throughout her three week stay, and became her little companions. She would hold and cuddle them, kiss them, and talk to them.
Her favourite, of all things, was a small splash ball, in the shape of a pink and yellow octopus, complete with stumpy tentacles and a very stylised smiley face. “Ollie” as he was known, was her “little friend”. To Mum, he was small and vulnerable, and would often “disappear”, either somewhere in her bed, or occasionally on the floor. Virtually every visit began with a search for “Ollie”, accompanied by calls of “Ollie! Ollie! Where are you Ollie?”.
When found, and given back to Mum, she would kiss him and talk to him.
After Mum returned home, now predominantly bed-bound, I acquired further toys, using them as experiments, to see how Mum would react. “Ollie”, however, has remained a firm favourite.
I tried a variety of cuddly toys, and whilst these were accepted, they didn't quite attract the same attention as “Ollie”. I then tried a couple of highly stylised soft baby dolls. These worked well, and along with “Ollie”, became favourites. As did a small, again highly stylised dog in a bag. These became her babies!
These toys all worked well, until just a few days ago, whilst shopping in my local supermarket, I spotted another, very realistic, baby doll. This particular doll is from JC Toys, and designed by Salvador Berenguer. As soon as Mum saw this doll, that was it! Her full nurturing instinct came to the fore. This doll, as far as she was concerned, was a “real” baby. A baby to be loved, to be protected, to be nurtured.
|Mum, Charlie and Ollie|
Mum has only had the “baby” for a couple of days, and it has already made a difference. She cradles it, talks to it, and gives it kisses and cuddles. Last night, she even, quite unsuccessfully, tried to feed it some of her ice cream!
It's early days yet, but this new “baby” certainly seems to be working. Mum is thinking about possible names, and has already suggested that she might name him “Charlie” after my late Dad.
“Charlie” came with very little clothing, as he was packaged as a “bath doll”, needless to say, clothing has now been ordered. In the meantime, he is wearing an all in one bodysuit, designed for tiny babies. It's a little large for a 14” doll, but will suffice for the time being.
I'll be posting more on this subject, as I find out more about the way Mum interacts with “Charlie”, and how he is helping her live with dementia.
As I finish this post, “Charlie” is with Mum, cradled in her right arm.