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Local Grandmother Makes Dolls for Alzheimer's Cuddle Therapy

"I bought all the supplies and materials and I got hooked," Gail Raines says. Inside her craft room, plastic parts transform into a kind of therapy. "All my grandchildren are past cuddling," Raines says, "and at some point I missed holding those babies and cuddling those babies and plus the art side of it was very appealing to me."

Each doll that Gail creates, takes about 30 hours of handiwork. "It's actually called a reborn process. It started about 10 years ago when artists would take old dolls strip all the paint, hair and body off and repaint it and remake it to look more realistic."

The baby soft vinyl is layered with paint. Different colors create each doll's skin tone, shading and that baby blush. Each coat is heat sealed and cooled before the newborn hair is threaded and their bodies weighted. "The glass beads go in," Raines says, "and I make sure it's placed in the very back of the head so it feels like a newborn when you pick it up."

Every doll is stuffed, assembled and even scented. "I call them my Gigibeans Sprouts because at some point, they all come to life."

But that's not the only life-changing moment these dolls deliver. Many of Gail's creations end up in the arms of women like Ruth. She is a resident of Morning Pointe of Hixson's Lantern Unit for Alzheimer's Patients.

"Because they do look so real," Raines says, "it does jog their memory of bringing up their own children."

These realistic dolls provide what Morning Pointe calls cuddle therapy, calming the frustrations that this cruel disease can sometimes cause.

"I can't get over myself," Ruth says, holding a baby named Lane. "Just take a look at this hair. This is a baby, I can't get over it."

"Sometimes when I watch them do that I get tears in my eyes," Lantern Program director Linda Noll says. "Because it just touches your heart to see how they function with them."

So what began as Gaile's hobby is now a compassionate calling that sometimes creates a connection so strong, lullabies long forgotten are remembered again.

"This is not something I set put to do," Raines says. "I just kind of fell into it by accident or by the grace whatever you want to call it. And every time I go into one of these facilities it takes it back home to me, this is what it's about. This is why you are doing this."

By: Latricia Thomas

For more information on Gigibeans Sprouts, click here to visit their Facebook page.

Local Grandmother Makes Dolls for Alzheimer's Cuddle Therapy

Friday, July 11 2014, 06:34 PM EDT

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