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Twiddle muffs and love for those living with dementia in Innisfail

Community Partners in Action in Innisfail teams up with volunteers to create and deliver unique therapeutic tools to Rosefield Centre

INNISFAIL – From the caring hands of volunteers in Innisfail and Calgary special items of love arrived last month for residents at Rosefield Centre’s Cognitive Impairment Unit.

Volunteers from a Calgary church group knitted 100 twiddle muffs for Innisfail’s Community Partners in Action (CPIA). They were then donated in April to the Rosefield Centre, which currently has 78 residents living with various stages of dementia.

Ellen Helgason, a CPIA member and a recreation therapist with Alberta Health Services, described twiddle muffs as colourful therapy tools designed to keep the dementia patients' hands active, busy, calm and warm.

Each of them is unique and can be designed to fit the ever-changing needs of the individual.

This includes strands of textured ribbons, beads, and various fabrics that are attached inside and outside.

“They're excellent for people with latent or late stages of dementia; a lot of times they can have some repetitive movements,” said Melissa Slater, a therapy assistant at Rosefield. “It’s a great way to allow them to expend some energy, and to also have that sensory stimulation and feedback through being able to touch and manipulate these little objects, and it's really good for fine motor dexterity as well.”

At about the same time as the Calgary volunteers six members of Men’s Shed, Innisfail created six sensory boards; three for the Rosefield Centre and the remaining earmarked for Sunset Manor’s Memory Care Unit.

Helgason said the intent of the sensory boards is to help residents living with dementia to maintain or improve motor skills, finger dexterity, and hand-eye coordination.

“Wood is very expensive now, and so I just looked around and I got the bottoms off TV trays and used them. They are a good inch-thick wood,” said Charles Silk, the coordinator of  Men’s Shed, Innisfail, adding each repurposed TV tray is about 14 by 18 inches in size.

Silk said members then added seven to nine pieces of familiar hardware to each board, such as latches, knobs, locks and electrical switches. With these items in place residents are then able to move them back and forth, or to open and closed positions.

“It's meant to be kind of a lap board so they can put it on their lap and turn it around, and put it on a table too,” he said.

Silk said it took the six volunteers an hour to complete all sensory boards.

“We had all the parts and everything here,” said Silk of the work done at the group’s donated space at Innisfail’s Cornerstone Flooring & Renovations. The cost for supplies was covered by monies received from a past federal New Horizons for Seniors Program grant.

“It went surprisingly very well because I thought I was in for a long night,” said Silk.

While the donations of twiddle muffs and sensory boards have been greatly appreciated by the Rosefield Centre, family members of residents are also especially grateful.

Nyna Marr, whose 85-year-old husband Ernest has been a resident for almost two years, said the twiddle muffs provide much needed therapeutic value.

“I think everything that has been made has been very good,” said Marr. “He (Ernest) can pull on the buttons. He can grab hold of little puffs that are there. He can put it on his hand and work it around. His hands are often moving.

“This gives him something to actually get a hold of and work with,” she added. “I don't know if he really knows what he has in his hand. But it's good. It's something that he can work with.”