Touch Quilts Elisa Nguyen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Touch Quilt Project with the The Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts brings happiness to individuals living with Alzheimer or demenia.

The project is not a new one, says Rylee Rieu, client services coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts, who first began working on the project when she was a placement student around 10 years ago.

“We actually got the idea from the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba. So my big project, when I was a student here, was actually to get this program off the ground,” she said. “We’re always looking for volunteers for people of all abilities to help out with the project.”

Rieu believes that hundreds of touch quilts have since been distributed across the District.

Quilts are distributed to those living with Alzheimers or dementia in the hospital, long term care or even those living at home. Rieu noted a few distribution locations such as Rainycrest Long Term Care, the hospitals in Fort Frances, Emo, Dryden, and more across the District.

“They even had people that are still living at home as well pick up some touch quilts for the people that they support,” she said. “Even last week, an individual stopped into the Kenora office and she picked up two touch quilts to send up to her father who lives in a remote First Nation community up north.”

The benefits of a touch quilt are many. They provide sensory stimulation to people with late stage Alzheimer’s disease, increasing happiness, communication and relaxation. “As well as to lessen sadness and fear that we see in those who have dementia,” said Rieu.

“The purpose of the Touch Quilt Project is more so first sensory stimulation,” she said. “And ultimately, just keep those hands busy. The way that the Touch Quilt Project works is it’s a perfect lap quilt size for the individual. And they can have buttons or other activities on the quilt to keep those hands moving.”

As an example, a woman sewed buttons on a quilt for her husband—a man who worked with his hands his whole life—because she noticed that he was always undoing the buttons on his shirt and undoing any tie he could find.

The lap-sized quilt is meant to fit nicely on the lap of a wheel-chair bound person. In the past, volunteers have gotten creative in making the quilts, Rieu says, adding that one lady sewed in a marble pocket.

For those interested but who do not have all the materials at home, Touch Quilt Kits are provided by the main office. In the Touch Quilt Kit, a total of 36, 6 inch squares of assorted textured fabrics, as well as batting and backing material are provided.

While bright colours make the quilt lively, the most important factor is the texture of the quilt. Fabrics such as seersucker, fake fur, velvet, fleece, satin, corduroy, wool and textured home decorator fabrics are all suitable for the Touch Quilts. Based on feedback from healthcare facilities, fur is the favorite fabric and believed to invoke memories of stroking a pet.

Those without sewing skills who would still like to support individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia can help by donating supplies, batting and fabric, cutting fabric squares and assembling the kits. “You don’t have to be a sewer to get involved in this project, which is nice,” said Rieu.

Rieu said that the Alzheimer’s Society is here to help in any way they can and has a variety of programs and services such as learning series, support groups, music projects, educational sessions on dementia, and more.

Rieu wants families and people living with dementia to know that they are not alone and to not be afraid to reach out to receive support.

“The first step is always the hardest. But I find once people get connected with us, they’re so glad that they do get connected with us. And they stay with us for a long time,” she said.

Some clients continue to stay connected with support groups long after their relative with dementia has passed away, offering their mentorship and experiences to others in a similar position, Rieu said.

The Touch Quilt Kits can be picked up at the main office in Kenora, but arrangements can be made for easy pick ups in Fort Frances as well.

By Elisa Nguyen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 06, 2023 at 10:55

This item reprinted with permission from    The Times    Fort Frances, Ontario
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