Workers' union, Unison has donated 13 ‘dementia dolls’ to The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust after hearing about their ability to comfort patients, reduce their anxiety and give them a sense of purpose.
The dolls, which cost between £10 and £15 each, are already being used by some patients in the Acute Medical Unit, cardiology and acute pain relief wards. The new additions will be used throughout the hospital to help older patients feel more comfortable and confident while being cared for in hospital.
Beth Goss-Hill, Lead Nurse for Dementia Care at TRFT, said staff are trained to ensure they know the benefits of using doll therapy and how to carefully select patients who may benefit from this unique method of care.
“We’re really grateful to Unison for funding our new arrivals. We know that people living with dementia-related conditions can feel anxious and distressed when they are in unfamiliar surroundings like hospitals. Inviting patients to care for a dementia doll is just one way we work with some patients to ease any anxiety they feel about being away from home,” she said.
“Used in the right way, and given to the right patient, they can have a phenomenal impact. They can bring back happy memories of parenthood and help people have a role to nurture and care. It can also improve communication and confidence.”
The Trust follows guidelines provided by dementia charities and organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society to ensure dementia dolls are used correctly and with the right patients. The advice includes naming the doll, rather than calling it a toy, providing a basinet or crib, using dolls that resemble real babies and allowing patients to pick up the doll in their own time.
Nurses are also provided with information sheets and training and will discuss the holistic therapy with families before introducing the dolls.
Beth added: “Studies have shown that using doll therapy can help patients living with dementia have a better experience when staying in hospital. But we’re very respectful of how families may feel about it and always leave it to the patient to accept doll therapy in their own unique way.
“We will leave the doll at the end of a patient’s bed or on a nearby chair for them to seek out themselves.
“We’ve trialled this kind of therapy throughout the hospital and have had such positive feedback from patients and their families. We hope our new arrivals show the positive impact they can have more widely.”
Angela Morris, Unison Trust Treasurer, said staff have been knitting ‘twiddle muffs’ to help keep dementia patients happy in hospital as well as baking cakes to raise money.
She added: “Fundraising for local charities and good causes is something close to our hearts at Unison so we’re delighted to be able to support the Trust by funding a new bundle of dementia dolls. It’s really rewarding to know they will be used to help dementia patients feel more settled and content during their stay at Rotherham Hospital.”
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