If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you may have struggled with finding ways to keep them calm and engaged. Have you ever considered a stuffed animal?
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea. Stuffed animals aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can find joy and comfort in stuffed animals, but those with dementia may be in a position to benefit from them a little more than most.
Why it May Help
If you’re a pet person, you’re well aware of the calming, grounding effect that an animal can have, especially one you enjoy a close bond with. Have you ever come home from a stressful day at work and felt some of that stress melt away when your dog came bounding to the door to meet you? Or maybe you’ve felt your tension ease a bit at the sound of your cat’s rhythmic purr as she rubbed her head contentedly on your hand.
People with dementia can feel agitated or anxious at times, and some of the calming benefits of spending time with a pet can also be experienced with stuffed animals. Stuffed animals have the added benefit that they don’t pose safety issues, such as tripping over them, and your loved one can keep them by their side all the time if that’s what they want.
A stuffed animal can also give your loved one a chance to nurture and care for something else, which stimulates positive emotions and can increase overall happiness. If the animal reminds them of one of their own beloved pets, it may be especially appealing.
An added benefit that you may experience is that a stuffed animal can create opportunities for interaction with your loved one and enable you to connect on a more meaningful level as you engage in conversations that involve the animal.
Tips for Using a Stuffed Animal for Dementia
If you would like to see how your loved one would respond to a stuffed animal, the following tips may be helpful.
- Stuffed animals may appeal more to people in the mid to late stages of dementia.
- Introduce the stuffed animal, but let your loved one hold or interact with it on their own terms. Don’t try to force them.
- Any stuffed animal could bring benefits, but you may want to try using one that resembles a pet your loved one may have had in the past.
- There are several companies that make stuffed animals, or even mechanical ones, especially for people with dementia. Some of them will even create a custom animal based on a photo of a pet.
Some people might hesitate to give a stuffed animal to their loved one because they worry that it could be demeaning. However, according to Marie Marley, author of the book Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s, and Joy, “we have to interact with them in their world; not try to drag them into ours.” Why not give it a try and see how they respond? You may be glad you did!
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If you or a loved one are in need of help living a safe, active and independent lifestyle, call the Davis Community today at 910-686-7195 or simply complete and submit our online information request form. We provide exceptional assisted living and skilled nursing services in Wilmington, NC. We offer a strong and supportive environment where your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Davis Community is pleased to offer customized concierge home care services, including meal preparation and nutritional guidance, to independent seniors living in Landfall, Cambridge Village, Wrightsville Beach and Porter’s Neck, NC. Get to know the difference today — schedule a visit to the Davis Community!