LONGMEADOW, MA – Jaime Beebe, the founder of Reborns With Reasons, has been volunteering for the past one-and-a-half years, visiting area nursing homes in Massachusetts and Connecticut with her newborn baby dolls to bring comfort and joy to residents.
Jaime has been visiting the Leavitt Family Jewish Home, a long-term care facility at JGS Lifecare, a leading health care system serving seniors and their families, a with her baby dolls for the past year. On a recent visit, Jaime brought Kayla to meet Sandra Greenberg, a resident of a memory care neighborhood, and Sandra’s reaction was stunning.
Delila Jones of the Life Enrichment Staff caught the interaction on video, and with family permission shared the encounter with Jaime who posted it on the Reborn With Reason FaceBook site. You can view it here: www.facebook.com/rebornswithreasons/videos/246221529618561/?t=65
In just a few days there were over 10,000 views of the post. The post caught the attention of Doll manufacturer Ashton Drake, who loved what they saw. As an expression of gratitude to Jamie for her volunteer work and of caring for Sandra, Ashton Drake decided to donate a comfort doll to Sandra.
On Monday, March 11 at 10:30 a.m., Jaime will visit Sandra with a new Kayla comfort baby doll. But at the end of the visit, Kayla will not go home with Jaime, she will stay in the loving arms of Sandra.
The Ashton Drake literature states that the simple act of cuddling a baby doll can help reestablish nurturing feelings, provide a sense of purpose, express emotions and bring joy and comfort therapy for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Made to look and feel as lifelike as possible, Kayla has a perfectly weighted soft cloth body that feels just right in a senior’s loving arms. Her head is proportionately weighted as well, requiring gentle support just like a real infant. Her head, arms and legs are crafted of smooth vinyl, and her baby-fine hair is hand-rooted to look and feel natural.
Reflecting back on her first visit to the Leavitt Home, Jaime recalled, “The residents were thrilled to see a “brand new” baby arriving for a visit. I was instantly greeted with open arms by both residents and staff. That very first day I witnessed something amazing, a woman of very few words cradled my reborn in her arms. She began swaying so naturally with her motherly instincts kicking in. Then the most miraculous thing happened, this silent lady beamed from ear to ear and began talking! And I don’t mean a few quiet words, I mean loudly and continuously! Her nurse was astounded and I was covered in goosebumps! It was at that very moment, with that very first resident, that I knew there were more to these babies than ‘just a doll.’ ”
Jaime recounted how the idea for Reborns With Reason was born.
“I discovered my love for reborn dolls in October 2016. I have always loved dolls even before I could walk, one of my firsts being a Holly Hobbie. I began my collection of reborns solely for myself but quickly learned the therapeutic benefits these babies hold. So in the summer of 2017 after doing some research and discovering that these babies are great therapy for many reasons including those suffering from a loss of a child, those who can’t have children, those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, anxiety or even empty nest syndrome, I ventured into my very first nursing home to provide ‘comfort therapy.’
“Many will ask, is comfort therapy just sitting and cuddling a baby? The answer; basically yes! The physical aspect is the holding, rocking and cuddling but the emotional aspect goes even deeper. Holding a baby has been proven to release oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone. The release of that hormone, coupled with the weight of the baby (similar to that of a weighted blanket), provide immediate comfort.
Those with a form of dementia benefit highly for many reasons. Holding a baby brings them back to a time in their lives that they remember, maybe memories of their own children or even growing up themselves with young siblings, most are usually happy memories! Caring for a baby can make the patient feel like they have a purpose and for some, it’s finding that companionship while remembering something familiar and being capable of having a conversation. No resident has yet to forget how to hold a baby! This instinct is a big reason why this therapy is so effective.”
Asked how dolls are therapeutic to those with memory care issues, Jamie explained: “There are many ways dolls can be therapeutic for someone battling Alzheimer’s or dementia. As humans we have the instinct to nurture. We want to show affection, to give love, and to receive love. That need doesn’t go away, even as memories deteriorate with dementia. Doll therapy can be a very effective way for a person with Alzheimer’s or any kind of dementia to decrease stress and agitation. Holding something like a baby doll can be calming and soothing in itself and is a great non-medicating way of calming an agitated patient. These dolls provide comfort and companionship and they have shown to improve communication. A doll can help a person who is not verbalizing to initiate speech again. It is part of the basic thought process to speak, hum or sing to a baby in your arms. Many residents sing to our babies, that’s one of my favorite interactions! Often times memories spark when a doll is placed in the arms of someone with Alzheimer’s. Patients remember details about their own children when they were young, often bringing instant happiness and joy. Holding a doll can allow those with Alzheimer’s to feel in control after having lost much control in their lives already.
A baby doll can…
• Calm someone who is upset;
• Provide endless hours of hugs and smiles;
• Lull a person to sleep;
• Create a distraction from a dangerous, harmful or upsetting event;
• Serve as an attention-getter;
• Provide a tool for social interaction;
• Regenerate warm, nurturing feelings of once again caring for a young child;
• Make it possible for someone, totally dependent upon others, to care for ‘someone’ else.
Currently, Jaime and her small group visit seven different nursing homes and skilled care facilities in Connecticut and Massachusetts and several other communities have begun something similar in their area.
Delila Jones, JGS Lifecare Dementia Coordinator/Life Enrichment, provides care for residents in the Leavitt Home memory-care neighborhood. She remarked, “I am blessed to witness the impact doll therapy has on our loved ones. The joy these babies bring to our residents is transformative and touching to witness.”
– Submitted article