Shh, he's sleeping.

4

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We have a couple residents who don’t speak much, if at all. We also have a “baby station” that is set up to look like part of a nursery. A couple of us worked to relocate the station to an area where more residents would interact with it, and we have had a lot of success.

A couple of our residents really love holding and dressing the realistic-looking baby. While most of the residents just ignore the baby station or think “it’s so cute!” others are in the stage where they believe the baby is real.

I gave a tour of Clare Bridge once to a man who said, “What a sad disease” when he saw the baby station. After working in this field for so long, I was taken aback. The baby station to me was a happy symbol— a happy way for people to express love and bring back memories. I think he felt like it wasn’t fair that dementia takes people to a place where they believe a toy baby is real. But if that’s where a person is happiest, isn’t it great to give them the opportunity to play with a baby?

Last night a coworker walked in to find one resident holding the baby in a blanket. The resident is primarily nonverbal, and doesn’t express much through body language. She sat, comforting the baby doll, pulling the blanket up around its body. “What have you got there?” my coworker asked. “Shh, he’s sleeping,” the resident responded. “I heard him crying.”

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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