Doll therapy in dementia: Facts and controversies

BACKGROUND: The management of major neurocognitive disorder (MNCD), formerly known as dementia, is of increasing concern as the elderly population continues to grow. Doll therapy (DT) is a controversial method observed in clinical practice that has both promising benefits and potential ethical concerns. To date, little research has been done on this therapy.

METHODS: A PubMed search was performed using the keywords “dementia,” “elderly,” “dolls,” “doll therapy,” and “Alzheimer’s disease.” A list of pertinent articles was assembled, with irrelevant articles excluded. References from these articles were also reviewed and additional articles were included in the final list.

RESULTS: Research on the utility of DT for patients with MNCD is limited. Current literature suggests that DT may be beneficial in decreasing the use of pharmacologic interventions and alleviating symptoms such as agitation and anxiety. However, most studies consisted of small, unrepresentative sample populations.

CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary studies favor DT as an effective management strategy for behavioral symptoms of MNCD. However, the few existing randomized controlled trials are limited in size and demographics. Further research involving larger, more diverse study samples with more male patients is needed. Additionally, the exact parameters to guide this therapy have not been established and require investigative study.

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