Resident Harriet Trotter visits with Shawna Bradford

Resident Harriet Trotter visits with Shawna Bradford

Rose Wood introduces doll therapy program

Residents find joy and purpose interacting with baby dolls.

Shawna Bradford sings “You Are My Sunshine” over the shoulder of a resident who swaddles a baby doll at Rose Wood Village.

The director of clinical care at the seniors’ facility in Trail is one of the driving forces behind the new Doll Therapy Program.

In partnership with Stephanie Braxmeier, facility recreational therapist, Bradford implemented the program two weeks ago to add purpose and joy to seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia.

“We did have residents who had dolls and were using them, and what we found was in times of anxiety or when they start to sundown, which is common for people with dementia, giving them a baby doll to either look after or to hold triggered a positive memory,” she said.

“It provides a distraction and comfort, it connects them with their memories often at times, or it can lead to a meaningful purpose.”

The chronic neurodegenerative disease can start slowly and get worse over time or come on fast. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events but as the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation, mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self-care, and behavioural issues. As a person’s condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society.

“What happens is they fade, and so it’s really difficult for families because they don’t see the person who they once knew and often what they say is there is quite a significant depression that happens,” said Bradford, who is a registered nurse. “Anger and physical lashing out can occur because of their own frustration and when they’re on the cusp and they know they’re losing their memory, it’s a very difficult place to be.”

The Doll Therapy Program connects seniors with foundation memories imprinted in the brain. Though the idea is still fresh for Rose Wood, both Bradford and Braxmeier say it’s catching on and adding real value to residents who are taking to the concept.

One man who is quite vocal and can get agitated will settle right down when someone places a doll in his arms while others open up and share stories, some that stretch back a lifetime.

“Sometimes it’s really amazing what you can hear; what they’ll share or what they’ll remember,” said Bradford. “It’s very moving.”

The idea came together with help from a local chapter of Bags of Hope, which bought into the “baby doll program” by collecting and restoring donated dolls and creating bunting bags and quilts to accompany the freshened up dolls.

Rose Wood now has seven baby dolls in its “rust” neighbourhood.

Even residents who aren’t suffering from dementia seem to enjoy the benefits of participating in the program, as they swap stories from their child-rearing years and raising babies of their own.

Braxmeier recently introduced the philosophy after seeing how well it worked in one-on-one care. It fits in well with other recreation programs like yoga, baking, and dog therapy, which promote physical interaction and can often trigger memory through the use of all senses.

“There is an assumption sometimes when people come into care that that’s the end of their life,” explained Bradford. “What we want to try and do is look at proving opportunities or meaningful experiences can continue to enhance their life throughout the remainder of whatever their days are.”

The Doll Therapy Program is bubbling with more ideas rising to the top, like the creation of a community corner within the facility. The women envision a clothesline and other whimsical details that will further stir a feeling of home.

Just Posted

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
Old growth protesters begin 24-hour blockade of Castlegar’s main street

Members of Extinction Rebellion plan to stay overnight

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Painting by Dave Davies from Shaver’s Bench facing Teck Trail.
Happy 120th Birthday to the City of Trail!

The town of Trail Creek- or Trail Creek Landing - was incorporated as a city on June 14, 1901.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read