Alzheimer's Busy Blanket: A special gift for Mom | The Interior Frugalista: Alzheimer's Busy Blanket: A special gift for Mom
Alzheimer's Busy Blanket: A special gift for Mom | The Interior Frugalista

December 22, 2016

Alzheimer's Busy Blanket: A special gift for Mom

Hello friends, you may want to grab a beverage before reading this post. Today I'm sharing a special gift that is near and dear to my heart because I made it for my Mother who has been suffering from Alzheimer's for the last five years. As you probably gathered from the title of this post, I made her a Busy Blanket also known as a Multi-Sensory Fidget Blanket but before I share the details of what that is or how I made it, I'm going to get a little personal about her journey with this nasty disease.

Alzheimers Busy Blanket

Her symptoms of dementia started to become apparent in her late 60's, shortly after my Father's sudden passing in 2005. She managed to live independently for seven years in a seniors apartment within blocks of the home she and Dad raised their seven children (I am the eldest). For the last two of those years there was a noticeable decline and after a fall, which landed her in the hospital for two weeks, she was assessed and placed directly from the hospital into a designated assisted living facility (a small suite within a senior's retirement village where in-suite health care and daily meals were provided).

Her mother also battled this disease but Nana's decline was far worse. It dramatically changed both my Nana's and my Mom's physical appearance. Mom went from a size 16 to a 10 in a matter of months and she looks much older and far too frail for her 79 years.

Within two and half years of living in the assisted living environment, her dementia took another decline. She was often found wandering in the night and getting lost when navigating her way to and from the dining room. At this point, she was reassessed and sadly, she has spent the last two and half years in a secured dementia unit within that same facility. She stopped any interest in watching television or reading her beloved Catherine Cookson novels and spent her hours pacing up and down the halls with her walker.

Dementia Fidget Blanket

I firmly believe that had she received my gift back when she was first admitted, she would have faired much-better-having something to keep her fidgeting hands busy and mind focused away from all the chaos that surrounded her on a daily basis. Especially during the last 3-4 months when her knees could no longer support her tiny frail body and she became wheelchair bound, spending many restless idle hours in her chair.

In October Mom was moved to a long-term care facility, literally across the street from the senior's apartment she lived in after Dad's death. Talk about coming full circle! We were so worried that the move would cause another major decline. I am happy to report that within one month she gained four pounds, her smile has returned, she is looking up again and taking in her surroundings. Much to our surprise, she is saying some articulate words and sometimes small sentences (she has been non-verbal for the last two years). While she continues to talk mostly gibberish and doesn't know our names or whether we are her children, she does recognize our faces as someone she knows.

A few months ago a friend introduced me to the concept of a Busy/Fidget Blanket for those suffering from Alzheimer's or Dementia. It is a multi-sensory activity lap blanket that keeps their restless fingers busy while calming their fearful minds. As soon as I saw the photo, I knew I had to make one for my Mom (thank you, Lynn). While Mom has started enjoying watching television again, her hands remain very restless.

Her favorite color is green and I was thrilled when I found this mint green fringed fleece blanket at Wal-Mart as a warm base for Mom's wheelchair lap blanket. Now for adding the multi-sensory elements onto the blanket.

Alzheimers Busy Blanket Supplies

When my sister and I went through Mom's closet preparing to pack her belongings for the move, I took a few garments home that had permanent stains. Any of the clothing too big for her we donated to the unit for the ladies without families who rarely receive new clothing, if at all. I used the zippers, flaps, and pockets of Mom's garments along with a few things from my own closet and craft stash to create these multi-sensory elements.

Garments Used For Alzheimers Busy Blanket

Alzheimer's Multi-Sensory Busy Blanket or Fidget Blanket

Dementia Busy Fidget Blanket

Multi-Sensory Elements:

Before adding the multi-sensory elements I folded the fleece blanket in half and marked the center with pins. I did this for three reasons:
  1. Because this is a "wheelchair lap blanket" you don't want the blanket to be too long.
  2. You want all the elements to be within reach, therefore only sewing them to one-half of the blanket.
  3. When laundering the blanket, it can be folded in half so the elements are on the inside and secured by tieing the fleece ties together on the top and bottom corners.

Zipper and Buttons

I cut around the zipper of one garment using pinking shears and zig zag stitched it onto the blanket. With the buttons closed, I cut a portion of the front bodice of a felted sweater and zig zag stitched the left side of both the button and buttonhole fabric pieces onto the blanket. Next, I unbuttoned the fabric piece, opened the top flap and sewed the top, right and bottom sides of the lower button strip onto the blanket. This way she can unbutton the buttons and flip open the top flap.

I have to inject that making this blanket was very emotional but adding to the sentimentality of this handmade gift was that I used Mom's vintage stainless steel Singer Pinking Shears and Scissors to make it. I have many memories of Mom hunched over her sewing machine in the corner of her small bedroom spewing colorful words as she sewed with determination. When she got rid of her sewing machine I was lucky enough to inherit her scissor set. Every time I use them, it feels like Mom is right here with me. 

Zipper and buttons on Dementia Fidget Blanket

Pocket

I was in such a hurry to get this done I completely forgot to remove the lint from the pocket before taking the pictures - oops.

You can't see it in the photo below but I cut the pocket from a sweater with about an extra inch all around. I cut a piece the same size from the gray felted sweater. Placing the good sides together and the wrong sides facing toward me, I sewed the two side seams and bottom together (to prevent the knit pocket from unraveling). Next, I turned them right side out and sewed the pocket onto the blanket, ensuring the top of the pocket remained open.

Pocket on Alzheimers Busy Blanket

Cuffs

I crocheted this fuzzy scarf many many years ago and found it at the back of a closet. I thought the soft fuzzy wool would be a nice tactile element. Then I got the idea that I could turn the scarf into cuffs for her to put her hands in. All I did was fold the scarf in half and place it horizontally on the blanket and stitch each end to the blanket. Then I simply stitched a vertical line every six inches to form the cuffs.

Scarf Cuffs on Dementia Fidget Blanket

Bead Strand and Flap Pouch

You may remember these small wooden tiles from the banner I had hanging on the Wedding Card Wooden Caddy that I made for my daughter's wedding in August. The buttons were salvaged from the red sweater and the black beads are from a necklace I haven't worn in years. I slipped them through a narrow ribbon, leaving an extra inch on each side so Mom can turn and move them from side-to-side. I secured each end of the ribbon onto the blanket using both vertical and horizontal stitches.

The flap pouch doesn't have a pocket but I thought both the flap and the metal grommets would be a great tactile element. 

Bead strand on Alzheimers Busy Blanket

Circle Loop Scarf

I crocheted this circle loop scarf several years ago when they were all the rage. I haven't worn it in a few years but whenever my sister or I wear a scarf while visiting Mom, she always likes to play with it. The loopier the scarf, the more she likes to play.

I opened one of the loops and tied it securely onto a clear plastic roman blind curtain ring and then handstitched the ring onto the blanket. 

Ruffle scarf on Alzheimers Busy Blanket

Peek-a-Boo Photo Window Flap

This Peek-A-Boo Window Flap was a special element to add because this was a professional photo my parents had taken mere months before Dad's passing. I'm hoping the photo adds a comforting element to Mom's blanket.

To make it I cut the trim around the base of the gray felted sweater. Using my Inkjet printer, I color copied the photograph onto TAP (Transfer Artist Paper). I cut TAP paper around the photograph and placed it image side down onto a piece of 100% white cotton fabric. With the iron set on DRY heat at the highest setting, I ironed the image onto the cotton and removed the paper backing once I had a good transfer. 

Using a zig zag stitch, I sewed the cotton image transfer onto the blanket.

NOTE: I pinned the photo upside down onto the blanket so the image would be facing Mom while sitting in her wheelchair.

Next, I cut two pieces of gray felted sweater trim to size and pinned them in place over the photo. I attached them to each side of the photo using a zig zag stitch. 
PeekABoo Photo Window on Dementia Fidget Blanket

Ribbon

These are repurposed tie backs from an old red ticking stripe chair slipcover. I looped the ties through a clear plastic roman blind curtain ring that I had in my stash and stitched it just under the ring to secure it. Then I handstitched the ring onto the blanket. I'm not sure if Mom can tie a bow anymore but hopefully, she'll enjoy playing with the strands.

Slipcover Tieback used on Dementia Busy Blanket

Securing the blanket to a wheelchair

*affiliate link included so you can see what kind of straps I used to secure the busy blanket to Mom's wheelchair. 


Sorry but I completely forgot to take pictures of this step. Once all the elements are added to the blanket, fold the blanket in half and mark the fold with a pin on each side. Lay the blanket open again and just below the pin marking the center (on each side) and before the fleece ties, pin the 10-inch Tripp Lite velcro hook and loop ties in place (the fabric tab with the logo).

TIP: To secure firmly to the blanket, sew completely around the fabric tab followed by an X in the center.

The ties will wrap around the frame of the wheelchair to hold the blanket in place.

I am looking forward to visiting with Mom on Christmas Eve and watching her open her gift. I hope that it fills her idle hours and keeps her restless fingers very busy.

If you know someone who has a family member who suffers from Dementia, Alzheimer's or Autism and may benefit from seeing this post, please share my Alzheimer's Busy-Fidget Blanket with them and/or save it on Pinterest.
Multi-Sensory Alzheimers-Dementia Busy Fidget Blanket

 From Our House To Yours...

Christmas Tree with Sentimental Ornaments

May the Christmas season fill your home with joy, your heart with love and your life with laughter.

Merry Christmas

You will find this project linked to these fabulous Link Parties.



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