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A soothing effect: Enfield woman provides therapy to seniors using life-like baby dolls
Journal Inquirer - 9/13/2021
Sep. 13—ENFIELD — Jaime Beebe knows how to ease the anxiety felt by seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
It has to do with giving them lifelike baby dolls to cuddle.
Beebe, a lifelong resident who lives on Raffia Road, spends her free time as a volunteer offering this unique therapy, which comforts and soothes seniors.
Since 2017, Beebe has been collecting a specific type of doll called Reborn Dolls. The dolls are weighted like a real baby and sculpted after real babies, as well as painted by artists to give them realistic facial features.
"Reborn dolls are used for many reasons," Beebe said. "They're for people that can't have kids, people who've lost kids, empty nesters, people with anxiety or depression. Some people collect them because they're doll collectors."
For four years, Beebe has been taking the dolls to various assisted living facilities across the state for seniors to enjoy. She calls the program Reborns with Reasons.
"I've always been a doll lover all my life so I bought one and I couldn't believe it when I saw it in person and held it. The longer I owned it I started doing a little research on them and that's what I stumbled across the therapeutic benefits of them," Beebe said.
She has traveled to 19 different senior facilities, typically returning to many of them weekly.
"It's become a huge passion," she said.
Beebe said the dolls take those with memory loss-related illnesses back to a time when they had children or grandchildren.
REBORNS WITH REASONS
WHAT: Jaime Beebe of Enfield offers doll therapy to the elderly, visiting senior facilities in Connecticut and Massachusetts
BENEFITS: Calms and soothes seniors with memory loss-related issues
FACEBOOK: Reborns with Reasons
"These are people that in some cases can't even tell you what they had for breakfast, yet when you hand them one of these dolls and they start telling you how big their baby was 60 plus years ago — you can just see the change in their emotions," Beebe said.
Lisa Pho, a registered nurse assistant with The Ivy at Ellington, an assisted living facility, said she — along with other employees there — vividly see a shift in the mood of their seniors when Beebe visits with her dolls.
"The dolls look so realistic that it brings back memories and everyone here loves them," Pho said. "It makes me happy seeing them so happy with the dolls. Sometimes they'll be having a bad day, but when they see the dolls they light up."
On top of visiting senior facilities, Beebe said she also visits a woman in hospice once a week.
Beebe said one time she visited a special needs classroom in an elementary school where an autistic child fell in love with one of the dolls after holding it.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to her program for about a year, Beebe said she's happy to finally be back and doing what she loves now that restrictions have been lessened.
"It felt like a piece of me was missing for so long," she said.
Besides The Ivy, some of the other facilities Beebe has visited include The Residence in South Windsor, The Arbors in Westfield, Massachusetts, and Memory Support of Heritage Hall in Agawam, Massachusetts.
"When you see the smiles that you can bring to somebody through something so simple, it's just heartwarming and uplifting that it makes me feel so good knowing that I am making a difference for that person," Beebe said.
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