Sadly diagnosed with dementia around five years ago, Jessie Bell, a grandmother, was moved into a nursing home this year as her condition worsened, for her own safety and wellbeing.
At a ripe old age of 94 she had done ok in life, but is now having a hard time in enjoying what’s left in life for her, Jessie’s daughter, Sandra, now 57 years old, described her mother as hardly ever smiling anymore.
“She started doing the oddest things like going into the garden in the middle of the night to move around garden furniture or she’d try to cook her chips in washing-up liquid”
“It got to the point where my sister was going down there seven days a week and mom had carers too.
“She’d be getting up in the middle of the night and playing up so in the end we had no choice but to put her in a home.”
As her mother’s condition progressed it was inevitable that Jessie’s condition would become worse to the point that she couldn’t remember anymore that Sandra and Carol were her daughters.
One year Carol, Sandra’s sister bought a doll for Jessie for their mother from a charity store, they desperately wanted their mother to feel happy again. Jessie, when she saw the doll thought it was a real baby, the doll made real baby noises too, it was quite convincing if your sight wasn’t too great!
For the first time in a long time she started smiling again, she found some happiness!
Jessie called the doll ‘Gizzy’, which also was her dog’s name!
“My mom will look into the doll’s face and say to me ‘isn’t she lovely? Look at her smile’ …then mom will smile too, she rarely smiles at anyone else”
Sandra after some refmection then said:
“She’s gone really downhill in the last few months and she can’t walk at all, but the baby is always with her”
“Every time we go in and see her the baby is always by her side,” she said. “When I visited last night, she was cuddling it in her arms.”
“She’ll feed it and if she’s eating something then the baby will have to eat too. She doesn’t change the baby’s nappy or clothes herself though because she kept pulling its arm out of the socket.”
Many of the residents at the nursing home took to the doll too, some of them, also with dementia will ask Sandra how the baby is doing when she comes to visit her mother.
“There’s a few other residents in the home that like to take her doll when she’s not looking”
“They get a lot of comfort from holding the baby.”
Some of the residents who are ‘sound of mind’, as Sandra said, ask Jessie regularly how the baby is doing, these are some of the few interactions Jessie is able to understand.
Would you believe it, but there is definitely something there, “doll therapy” is a controversial but growing thing; It’s been found to calm people with dementia and be a bright spot in their lives, but some people are not comfortable with it.
Sandra and Carol get some comfort in knowing their mom’s mind will be occupied while she is playing with the baby and she will feel a sense of happiness.
“I think the dementia has been harder for us than it has been for mom, but now when we leave her the doll gives her comfort”
While this story might be heartbreaking it is also a little ray of light for sons, mothers, and daughters in these positions, and it gives happiness and comfort to someone who otherwise would live every day in confusion and despair.
The baby may not feel, look, or be real to us, but it is to Jessie! It brings peace to chaos, harmony to despair and confusion, and in the end, the result for Jessie is the most important thing of all!