MASON CITY, Iowa - Whether it is caused by Alzheimer's Disease or some other ailment, dementia test patients, their families, and caregivers alike. Some caregivers, though, are having success with a unique form of therapy for patients - socialization with life-like dolls.
Kaylee Ciavarelli's grandmother has dementia, and lives at a nursing home in Northwood. Her mother, who works at the same facility, recently told her of an argument between a couple of residents, who also have dementia.
"One has a realistic doll, and they fight over it. They all think they can be the best mother."
Kaylee came up with the idea to buy a doll, though the prices for them tend to be a bit high. Soon, her act of generosity would grow.
"I posted on Facebook if anyone wanted to donate. They're about $60-65. I needed two dolls at the time so they would stop fighting... and it just blew up."
She's been receiving requests from families and caregivers around North Iowa and even in Minnesota and surrounding areas about receiving a Dola Doll, named after her grandmother, and is collecting donations for them. The dolls have proven to be a comfort to patients.
"Residents that weren't talking before are smiling, singing happy birthday and smiling at their babies. Less fights, they're not aggravated.
"They view them as real. My grandma will lay her baby down and put pillows around it so she won't roll off the bed while she has lunch."
At the IOOF Home, where they've already received a couple of Dola Dolls and are asking for more, administrator Michael Davis has seen uplifted spirits thanks to the dolls.
"Often times, we think of it a disease that they forget certain things. They don't forget how to be nurturers. When they have that baby in their arms, you really see that nurturing side come out, and it's awesome to see."
"You can see somebody in a tense situation, and as soon as they see that baby, you see a sense of relief come over them. Their focus shifts from whatever was going on at that moment, to that baby. And they'll give that baby all the attention, and really make sure that baby is taken care of."
Ciavarelli wants each doll to go someone who needs it.
"Love is super important for your spirit, and having someone to love and connect with and hold, is very comforting, and that's all we want for them."
If you're interested in donating towards the Dola Doll initiative, or if you would like to donate one yourself, contact Ciavarelli at 641-530-4240.