Emily Richey, a 15-year-old freshman at Paris High School, knows from first-hand experience what happens when someone suffers from dementia.
Richey, the daughter of Dr. Jason and Tracey Richey of Paris, saw her grandmother suffer from the disease when she was in the eighth grade. She also remembers her grandmother being soothed and comforted while holding a doll.
She came away from that experience wanting to help dementia patients and those who care for them.
So, Richey and her father started doing research on the effect dolls and stuffed animals had on those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
“A lot of research shows that it improves their behavior and cuts down the amount of medicine they need,” Richey said last week.
So, she started a charity called Dolls for Dementia and is tyring to raise enough money to purchase 50 dolls or stuffed animals for dementia patients in the area. Richey has incorporated Dolls for Dementia in Arkansas and is going to seek designation as a non-profit corporation from the Internal Revenue Service.
Last week, Richey delivered dolls and stuffed animals to dementia patients at Greenhurst Nursing Home in Charleston.
On Wednesday, Feb. 26, dolls and stuffed animals will be delivered to dementia patients at Paris Health and Rehabilitation Center in Paris, home to the largest dementia unit in Arkansas. The delivery will take place at 10:30 a.m. and Richey will be accompanied by the daughter and granddaughter of former University of Arkansas Athletic Director and football coach Frank Broyles.
Broyles’ first wife Barbara died after suffering from dementia and the Barbara and Frank Broyles Foundation was started shortly after and funds Caregivers United, which provides support for dementia patients and caregivers.
The dolls and stuffed animals are being purchased from a website recommended by the National Alzheimer’s Association, according to Dr. Jason Richey, who said the dolls cost around $150 each and stuffed teddy bears and the like cost around $50 each.
“Since we started this, we’ve had hundreds of people tell us they can remember an elderly family member holding a doll,” Richey said.
“Doll therapy has been known to give patients suffering from dementia the feeling of having a purpose,” Richey said. “The patient may care for the doll as they would a baby, such as feeding it, changing it, dressing it or simply holding it. This may revert them back to a pleasant time in their lives when they were younger and taking care of their own children. Studies show this type of therapy can produce a calming effect on the patient.”
Emily Richey has been raising money to purchase dolls with the help of some friends. Richey and FBLA students at Paris High School recently raised money by selling hot chocolate. She also got Paris Elementary School to conduct a “penny war” between grades. That project brought in around $1,200. Richey and her friends also sold Orange Crush and Hershey kisses in the days before Valentine’s Day.
They are also seeking other sponsors, Dr. Richey said.
“We’re looking at getting some corporate sponsors,” he said.
Richey designed a webpage about the project at www.dollsfordementia.com
There’s also a Facebook page and there’s information about the organization on Instagram.