“They love them, they hug them, and treat them like their own babies” are the heartfelt words used to describe how a life-improving activity at Red Rose care home is helping soothe its community by helping them tap into joyous memories of parenthood.

Doll therapy is becoming a recognised practice as a way of engaging with its community on their everchanging journey with dementia as it encourages feelings of relaxation and pleasure. It is not simply ‘playing’ with a toy, it is providing therapy by boosting moods and stimulating a renewed sense of positive energy, and more opportunity to communicate.

Coming into Red Rose you may do a double-take as you notice its lovely community interacting with baby dolls. Treating them as their own, they foster memories of precious times spent with their own families over the years. Their smiles are infectious and soon everyone around them is sharing the happiness as they bounce their baby dolls on their laps. It is a heartwarming sight seen daily at Red Rose.

As Juliet Barrion, unit head at Red Rose Care Community, says: “Some of our lovely community think they are still mothers to young children, as they wash their faces and change their clothes and hugging them tenderly.  They experience real moments of contentment as their memories and reality combine.

“Our caring staff are overjoyed to see the uplifting effects the dolls. One of our lovely ladies gave her own baby doll to another of our ladies, who was feeling a little sad. It instantly brought her so much joy and comfort. The lady took the baby doll and kissed it. After that, she went to her bed every night with a baby doll.

“Like everything we do at Red Rose, we introduced doll therapy as a direct response to the needs of our own community. The relationships we build with every one of our lovely people and their families is so special to us. From the moment they arrive in our care we gather as much information about their lives and their experiences and we listen. We spend so much time together and notice every little thing and we share our experiences with our peers and our families. One of our families even bought a pram for their loved one. Now she puts the pram near to her bed and makes sure the doll is safe.”

Red Rose Care Community invites families with their own babies to attend the doll therapy sessions. And Juliet says: “It is a lovely sight to see our community enjoying some precious time surrounded by loved ones.”

Understanding the importance of these interactions is also the reason Red Rose is happy to invite friendly pets into their home.

In the same vein, family pets are equally as precious to many of our Red Rose community. This is why well-behaved dogs and other family pets are always welcome at every Red Homes care home. Whether it be a real-life (or fluffy toy) dog, cat or rabbit – it’s incredible to see the positive effects they can have on people.

Dog therapy is a regular and highly popular provision at Red Rose. It is known that gentle and playful interactions with dogs can enhance the mood of most people, including those living with dementia. The benefits of Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT) have been studied extensively and include improvement in general health and wellbeing, increased confidence levels, improved and controlled movement to improved communication skills by evoking memories and stimulating conversation.As Juliet agrees. “We really are a community of animal lovers here too. From our regular visits from our furry friends to our latest activity where we can watch little chicks hatching from eggs – these interactions are so enjoyable to watch but are also really beneficial on a social, emotional and physical level. Just by stroking a cat or dog, or careful handling of a chick, it can instantly improve your mood. Better still, we know at Red Rose these interactions can really improve fine motor skills and stimulate wonderful conversation – it’s wonderful to see!