Would it be helpful to have my mother hold a doll since she is in Stage 5 of Alzheimer’s and always looking for ‘her children’?

There are pros and cons to this, but it is probably worth a try. It has worked for many people who have Alzheimer’s since a basic human need is to nurture.

There have been many people with Alzheimer’s who have thought the doll was real. It can be beneficial, as they carry the doll everywhere and make sure it is cared for.

However, it also can have negative effects since the person with the doll might take worrying about it to extremes. Take, for example, one woman at an adult daycare center who had been a volunteer in healthcare facilities much of her adult life. She loved to take care of people and things, and she liked to keep busy. The staff gave her a doll.

It looked like a great idea at first and appeared to be a solution to her “busyness.” But after just a few hours, she began worrying about feeding the “baby.” She worried so much, she became agitated. Some clever staff members told her they were baby sitting and were able to get it out of her sight that way. With the “baby” out of view, the woman began to calm down. Staff put the doll away for several months and then gave it back. The woman was able to carry it around and not stress out about it at that point.

Your mother needs a lot of validation and assurance — on an ongoing basis. Assure her that her children are safe and doing fine. Most likely she is thinking about them as being young and is therefore worried about their wellbeing. Try to redirect her toward other kinds of activities to keep her mind busy, and off her children.

One alternative that has worked well is stuffed animals. A person with Alzheimer’s has the need to touch, love and give affection, just the same as anyone else. Stuffed animals can fill that need.