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Br J Nurs. 2013 Mar 28-Apr 10;22(6):329-34.

The therapeutic use of doll therapy in dementia.

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Dementia Care Unit, Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Over the next 15 years, the number of people with dementia in the UK will increase significantly. There are clear limitations associated with the sole use of pharmacological interventions to address the cognitive decline and related problems that people with dementia and their carers will experience. As a result, health professionals, including nurses, need to consider the development and use of nonpharmacological therapies to help resolve the distress and decline in social function that people with dementia can experience. The use of doll therapy in dementia care appears to be increasing, even though there is limited empirical evidence to support its use and therapeutic effectiveness. It is suggested by advocates of doll therapy that its use can alleviate distress and promote comfort in some people with dementia. Despite these encouraging claims, the theoretical basis for the use of doll therapy in dementia is poorly understood and morally questionable. The purpose of this article is to provide healthcare professionals with a succinct overview of the theory behind the therapeutic use of dolls for people with dementia, a presentation and appraisal of the available empirical evidence and an appreciation of the potential ethical dilemmas that are involved.

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