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New program gives fidget quilts to those with dementia in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Fidget quilts allow people with dementia or Alzheimer’s to keep their hands active
Jeanette Hawley, who belongs to the craft group who work out of the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre, will be making more of the fidget quilts for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

People who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are always fidgeting.

Often they will take items like a tissue box and rip it to shreds, or they take something like a Tupperware container and repeatedly open and close it.

But a new Ridge Meadows Seniors Society program will give them something they can fidget with and also calm them down at the same time.

Fidget quilts are made from a brightly coloured patchwork of different fabrics sewn together that sits on a person’s lap. Sewn onto the blanket are different objects that the person can feel, open and close, listen to, and put their hands in.

The idea to start making the quilts – also known as fidget blankets, sensory blankets, or dementia lap blankets – came to Bev Schmahmann, outreach coordinator for the seniors society, after a request from a senior caregiver to make one about a year ago.

Patty Crowdis, of Pitt Meadows, became the driving force behind the project, making upwards of 20 fidget quilts herself so far.

The idea with the fidget blanket is there are many different textures and fabrics to feel and to hold onto, said Schmahmann. This both calms a person down and also brings them back to the years where their memories are.

The quilts have nine squares, each one with a different fabric texture, and with different items to hold, or to open and close, like Velcro, beads, buttons, and clasps.

“In everyone of the blankets that our crafters have put together, they’ve really gone out of their way to find different feels and ideas on moving stuff,” she said.

The designs are endless. Some of them have wooden thread spools, bells, buckles, keys, and curlers.

The colours can also be stimulating, said Schmahmann.

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“We found many many many people who have them already, have had a huge calm come over them in terms of being able to find something to work with with their hands,” she said. “Really it just relaxes the person completely.”

Also, many people with dementia or Alzheimer’s find it difficult to look others in the eye.

It’s hard, said Schmahmann, because they can’t remember what they are saying.

But with the quilts they can keep their hands active and look at the quilt instead of a person, and, said Schmahmann, it helps them talk really well.

Each quilt is about 22 centimetres on each side, but are made slightly bigger for men. They can also be personalized using somebody’s favourite colour or giving the blanket a theme like Christmas or fishing.

Jeanette Hawley, with the craft group in Maple Ridge, said they have made five blankets so far. Each one, she explained, takes about a month to make because they have to collect all the items to sew onto the blanket.

“A lot of planning goes into them” said Schmahmann.

All of the blankets are going to be donated to the community.

Anyone interested in getting a quilt can contact Schmahmann at 604-380-0516.

They are also looking for donations of fabric and items to go onto the blankets. To see what items are needed also call 604-380-0516.

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A fidget quilt. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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