Toys that are typically meant for children can be an effective tool in soothing geriatric patients.
At Geisinger Medical Center (GMC), nearly 40 percent of the patient population is considered to be geriatric, age 65 or older, and with complex medical conditions, a long list of medications, and functional and cognitive limitations.
GMC nurses affiliated with Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), a national geriatric initiative to improve the care of older hospitalised adults, began to research the use of alternative treatment methods, namely baby doll therapy.
According to GMC nurses Tami Underhill, R.N., BSN, and Sarah Evans, R.N., this mode of therapy involves the simple act of offering a doll to a patient in need of soothing.
According to Underhill, the approach may seem fluffy to some, but it works wonders with their patients.
"It is an effective therapy for improving dementia patients' quality of life. It is also one of the easier therapies, if not the easiest, to administer," Underhill said.
Research has found that geriatric patients, particularly patients who suffer from dementia, tend to be more active and more focused when they are carrying or handling baby dolls.
It also enhances communication, focus, attitude toward other patients and caretakers, while reducing agitation during routine care when they would typically become angry or difficult.
"Not only do we want our patients to be healthy, but we want them to be happy. The dolls are just a simple means to that end," Underhill said.
The baby doll therapy is just the first of a series of initiatives that will be part of GMC's alternative therapy program.
Other tactics coming soon to GMC are the use of age-appropriate music, puzzles, games and playing cards, all of which will be delivered to in-patients units when the need arises.
Underhill and Evans anticipate seeing patients who are more at ease, with minds occupied by activities they find pleasurable.
"Our overall goal is to improve the care of our elderly patients. We also hope that our nurses will be pleased to have a new array of tools they can use with their patients," Underhill added.