Dementia can be one of the most difficult and confusing illness for both the patient and their loved ones to make sense of, but one charity in the United States is giving patients and their families hope through a simple yet effective technique.
Charity Pearl’s Memory Babies presents baby dolls to those with dementia and Alzheimer’s as a way of helping them feel comforted, loved and less confused. Dementia impacts more than 50 million people around the world, with as many as 10 million new cases each year. Video is now going viral of dementia patients receiving the dolls and bursting into tears of happiness as memories of their past come flooding back.
Originally shared by the George Takei Presents Facebook page last month, more than 16.2 million people have now watched the tear-jerking clip of dementia patients being given their own dolls and their priceless reactions.
Set up by Sandy Cambron and Shannon Gray Blair, the idea originally came to Sandy 12 years ago when her own mother-in-law, Pearl, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Sandy and her husband Wayne discovered the only way to calm Pearl down was when they presented her with a baby doll. The couple later shared baby dolls with other women in the same facility as Pearl and found that many of them had similar reactions to Pearl. Eventually, they decided to branch out and spend their own money to purchase as many dolls as possible for other dementia patients in other facilities.
“So, at Christmas, instead of giving each other gifts, we bought baby dolls for different nursing homes and took them at Christmas time to the Alzheimer’s patients, as our gift to each other,” Sandy told CBS News.
While Pearl sadly died, Sandy and Wayne vowed to help as many dementia and Alzheimer’s patients as they could by visiting patients during special times of the year and presenting them with their own baby dolls. It was here where Sandy met Shannon, whose own mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and just like Pearl, had a priceless reaction when she was handed a baby of her own.
They quickly realised the benefit of the dolls and before too long, puppies were also being given to men and dementia patients who were once pet owners. When photographs of the toys being presented to patients were uploaded online, they went viral, with many calling for more dolls to be used as a way of comforting people with dementia.
Sandy and Shannon purchase each of the dolls out of their own money, but have set up a GoFundMe page so they can reach even more patients and give them even more dolls.
“Our goal is to enrich the lives of Alzheimer’s patients,” Sandy said via the GoFundMe page.
Their biggest delivery to date was in October, where 45 babies and 22 puppies in October were given out at a care facility.
Sandy and Shannon told CBS news that the dolls help patients remember the feeling of parenthood and it’s not uncommon for them to cry when the doll is placed in their arms.
The page had raised more than US$11,000 (AU$15,235, UK£8,793) of the $15,000 target, with comments of well-wishes flooding the page.
One person said: “My husband has dementia and is currently in a facility. Thank you for all you do.”
Another comment read: “I saw a news story about your wonderful organisation during lunch hour at work. I can’t stop tearing up and thinking about all the smiles you’re bringing to these people, especially during the holidays.”
A third added: “My Mom just passed away. She was struggling with memory loss and all the fear and frustration that comes with it. She would have loved one of these dolls. I can see her smile now. I want to be part of blessing someone else.”