Changing the Course of Dementia with Selfie Custom Dolls


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Dr. Ethelle Lord, the president and founder of the International Caregivers Association, believes, “The true value in life is to give to others less fortunate than you.” This quote expresses her passion for, and expertise in, the field of dementia care. She also demonstrates this dedication through a heartwarming story with the help of Budsies

Her journey into the study of dementia care began after meeting Major Larry S. Potter. The two were married in 1996. They shared a very special bond that would be put to the test.

Living with Dementia

dementiaThree years into their marriage, Major Potter suffered serious brain trauma side effects after triple bypass surgery. For instance, due to impaired motor function in his brain, his legs would move faster and faster in an uncontrollable fashion until he ran into a wall or fell to the floor to stop himself. Dr. Lord knew something was not right. Due to her big heart and willingness to learn, Dr. Lord set out to find answers. 

On January 30, 2003, her husband was officially diagnosed with vascular dementia. This was the moment she says she began to devote her life’s work to being his caregiver and learning as much about dementia care as possible. She even went back to school, getting her Doctorate of Management.

Her goal, she said fearlessly, was to “Change the course of dementia care.” And that’s exactly what she did. 

Creating New Strides in Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care

Dr. Lord says one of her greatest achievements was working with Dr. Richard Rankin on a new form of energy medicine, Good Shepherd Healing System. Major Potter was one of seven research participants with advanced cases of dementia in this exclusive research study to “contain” dementia and Alzheimer’s, stopping the condition from progressing further.

Even after a condition like dementia is contained, there are still many living barriers that Major Potter and Dr. Lord would have to face head-on. According to Dr. Lord, a person with dementia can live for 40 years. Just imagine the strain that puts on a caregiver and a relationship. That’s where Budsies comes in.


How Selfie Custom Dolls Help those with Dementia

Major Potter was placed in a veteran’s facility in Maine while Dr. Lord continued her studies and research both in Maine and across the country in California. Because the two were on opposite sides of the U.S. several months of the year, she needed the perfect solution to remind her husband that she was always with him.

Dr. Lord turned to Budsies and purchased a Selfie custom doll of herself for her husband. She sent in a few pictures of herself in recognizable clothing and a beautiful pearl necklace. Inside the Selfie was a small pocket with a voice recorder. Dr. Lord recorded a quick snippet of a song the two bonded over. When Major Potter squeezes the doll, it sings out in Ethelle’s voice “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with Larry.”  When re-telling her story to us, she sung those words in such a way that anyone would have goosebumps down their arms and chills down their back.

Dementia Memory Aids

People with dementia need what Dr. Lord calls a “ladder” to bridge emotions and memories. She claims that memory aids such as Major Potter’s Selfie doll are vital to dementia patients. This is especially true for those separated from their family or living in care facilities. Not only does it help Major Potter when he’s feeling down, but it also helps Dr. Lord. She knows that a part of her is always with Larry. 


Now, the entire care community that Major Potter lives with, including nurses, activity staff, and maintenance staff, recognize the importance of his “Ethelle Doll”. When he squeezes the voice box, Major Potter doesn’t just listen, but he is able to sing along with it. If someone working at the facility sees him feeling down, they use the “Ethelle Doll” to comfort him. It never fails to cheer him up. He’ll even place his head gently on the Selfie doll in order to feel the soft texture of the plush.

Dr. Lord explained that sensory input like touch can help someone living with dementia process relevant information. As she continues to make strides in her research and furthers her role as president of the International Caregivers Association, Dr. Lord advised that starting a dialogue on how to properly care for those living with dementia is vital. She says that memory aids, such as custom Selfie dolls, are very helpful to dementia patients.

The Future of Selfie Dolls and Dementia Care

Dr. Lord has a profound metaphor that focuses on what’s really important in life. She said that the past is like a canceled check; once it’s been cashed, it’s gone and has no value. The future is like a Promissory Note, as it is money that cannot yet be obtained; the present, however, is like cash; take it and use it well. That, to her, is the main lesson of dementia. To be here now. It is crucial to treasure and cherish moments in the present, especially with the ones we love and cherish. 

Custom Selfie dolls have also helped military families cope with separation during deployment; others use these custom plushies to honor a person who may have passed away so their legacy lives on. No matter why one may order a Selfie, they immortalize a moment from the present.

If everyone can learn one thing from Dr. Lord beyond her countless years of research, it’s that the present is the most important thing one can cherish. You can find out more about dementia care and memory aids on the ICA’s website or read one of Dr. Lord’s publications on dementia and energy medicine.