Sensory Blanket for Alzheimer’s/Dementia Patient Care

Sensory Blanket for Alzheimer’s/Dementia Patient Care

Browsing through our local publication, The Connection Magazine, I came across an article that sparked my interest and warmed my heart.  Knit for Peace, shared a column about creating fidget hand muffs and blankets for patients with dementia.

I love creative projects, especially ones made with compassion and a purpose.  I was surprised I had never heard about this idea.  Our family is all too familiar with the struggles that accompany a loved one progressing through the stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  The concept of a sensory blanket (or fidget/busy blanket as some people call it) really excited me.  It would be a practical way to show our love, get the girls involved, and hopefully provide a gift for Grandma that she could use and enjoy.

I believe God had His hands in this one.  Within 2 days I had a completed lap quilt (with a full schedule and 2 younger girls in the mix, projects can often get delayed and take weeks or even months).  I was thankful to find several pre-cut squares from a quilt I had made many years ago; and there was plenty of fabric remnants to finish the small project.  I actually ended up having everything I needed in my craft closet.

I stitched the blocks together and then added the denim pockets before the gingham border.

I added several items: buttons, safety pins with beads, a carabiner with washers and key ring, bows, a felt flower, lace, ribbons for braiding.  Some of the embellishments are purely for visual or tactile effect, others are to help stimulate hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  I like the side pockets that will drape down when it sits on her lap.  She can store other items in there or tuck away the ribbons and braiding so they are out of the way.

After hand-stitching on all of the decorative details, I cut out a piece of backing fabric and batting and pinned it all together.  The quilting didn’t take too long since the lines are straight and there isn’t much surface area.  I finished it with the floral binding.  (If you would like more information or step-by-step instruction for creating a quilt, follow this link to my Blanket of Blessings post.)

For a final little touch, I added a button and loop to secure it when it’s rolled up.  (Next time I will remember to add the loop before the binding, but it still turned out fine.) It’s not impossible to add extras once a blanket is finished, but it’s easier and looks nicer to do it before it’s all stitched together.

This would also be easy to do with a tie fleece blanket.  You could add the enhancements to the top piece, then line up the bottom and tie it together.  It would be a great activity for the kids to help with or possibly even the patient themselves.

I get sentimental with things like this, and it brings me great joy to see little pieces of all of the family in the quilt.  It tells its own story.  The top fabric was from my favorite shop in Nebraska, Country Traditions, where I first learned how to quilt; the border and backing fabric were from my grandma Ruthie’s stash; the pockets were from my husband’s old jeans; the center bow was from ribbon we used at our wedding; the buttons were from my grandma Ruth’s collection; and my girls picked out the beads and helped every step of the way.  It was a true joy and blessing to be able to make this blanket for such a special person.

Have you ever made a sensory blanket or something similar? Do you have a great suggestion for items to add on a future quilt? I’d love to hear about it.  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.

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15 comments

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  1. I am a early on dementia patient and I am going to my make my own sensory blanket. I will use my favorite fabric,( I was a quilter ), pieces of different textured fabrics yarns and ribbons. pockets for special trinkets . pieces of crochet lace I’ve made. I can’t wait to get started !

    thank you for such a wonderful project !

    1. Dear Pat,
      Your comment has truly brightened my day! Grandma has enjoyed hers, and I hope your creative process and end product are a blessing for you. I would love to see your work, it sounds beautiful. If you feel like sharing don’t hesitate to send me an email. You are an inspiration to me as well as for patients walking through this journey.
      Thank you and God bless,
      Sarah
      sarah@sezenyourlife.com

  2. Thank you Sarah
    I heard about fidget muffs and wanted to create them for our Spring Alzheimer’s fund raiser. My close friend organises an afternoon tea party in aid of the charity. Now our craft group can visualise this project and hopefully make their own to sell on the day.

    1. Dear Julie,
      Wow, how wonderful! All of that sound amazing, the fund raiser and tea party, and a craft group to create items to sell! I think you’re really on to something there, that sounds right up my alley! It warms my heart so much to hear about people so loving, caring, and out there making a difference. These are the types of stories the world needs to hear about. Please feel free to share any ideas, or pictures of your events. You can always email me or find me on social media (the top of the page has buttons to facebook, twitter, etc..) I’m going to be sharing how much these comments are blessing me. Thank you! Many blessings to you and the groups!

  3. Lorraine: “This is such a great thing you found for the elderly to do with your little quilt. I plan to make some also thanks so much for sharing”

    Sarah: “Thank you, Lorraine. I hope you have as much fun with the Sensory Blankets as I did. I’d love to hear any ideas you came up with and see what you create!”

    (The original comments above were attached to a temporary link. They have been copied here verbatim)

  4. Bless you for posting this! I’m a CNA for private-pay Seniors and since I’m in their homes, I have the luxury of introducing different things to help them. THIS is pure genius!!

    1. Dear Patricia,
      What a wonderful career! I can’t imagine all of the challenges you are presented with on a daily basis. Thank you for having such a loving heart, I’m sure all of your patients are very blessed. It’s amazing how quickly this idea is spreading. And yes, whomever came up with it originally is so smart! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about it, or thought about it sooner.
      Thank you!

  5. What a beautiful idea wish my muminlaw was still here it would have been a lovely gift fot her she was a very caring mum even with Alzheimer’s miss her very much

    1. Dear Barb,
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment. It’s so difficult to go through the loss of a loved one who is so near and dear to your heart. And especially when they go through Alzheimer’s. I have recently heard of several people donating to Alzheimer’s research in honor of loved ones, either financially, with their time, or even by creating their own blankets to donate to local hospitals. We’re all praying for a cure, and I pray that God gives you comfort and peace as your fondly remember your mother-in-law.
      Thank you and God Bless,
      Sarah

  6. I’m going to take this to my quilting group and suggest we make some as a project. Such a great idea. I have a neighbor who has early Alzheimer’s and I’m going to make one for him. Thank you for the great idea!

    1. Dear Ann,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I am so excited to hear about so many other people making these! Many recipients are going to be so blessed. Thank you for your kind heart and support for Alzheimer’s patients. They will benefit from this tangible source of love!
      Thank you and many blessings to you and your quilting group!
      Sarah

  7. I have been wanting to sew for charity for some time now and this sounds like a good idea. How do you think a crazy quilt pattern with beads, lace and velvet go over? I usually sew clothes but have made a quilt or more. Thank you for posting this.

    1. Dear Ann,
      I think that sounds great! I love the idea of different textures of fabric, like the velvet. I don’t think there are really too many restrictions when it comes to creating a blanket. I’ll have to check around and see if any of our local hospitals would put any limits on what’s acceptable. But I would venture to guess, they’d be thrilled to accept almost anything you create. One person might prefer a solid color fleece blanket, while another will be excited with multiple colors and shapes. And different styles would give the nurses options to swap them around to different patients too possibly. You might want to see what charity or hospital is in your area to see what they suggest. And if anyone else reading has input having already done this for charity or from a medical professional’s standpoint, please feel free to comment and let us know your thoughts!
      Thank you so much, I bet your quilt will be perfect!
      Sarah

  8. Do you have to know the dementia person to make a sensory quilt to be able to personalize it?

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      You don’t have to know a patient personally to still be able to make a blanket or quilt to donate. I’d suggest checking with a local facility or seeing if there happens to be an Alzheimer’s/Dementia charity nearby. They could provide a better idea of their current needs. Some facilities assist people who may be more self-sufficient and could use blankets that are more intricate (buckles, weaving, laces, zippers), and others might prefer something that is more visual/tactile (various fabrics, loops, shapes). But I’m sure just about any colors, fabrics, and whatever you’d like to do, they’d be happy to have! I believe for every quilt, there is the perfect person ready to receive it!
      Thank you, and many blessings!
      Sarah

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