October 27, 2016 6:59 pm

NB women knit ‘twiddlemuffs’, ease anxiety for seniors with dementia

WATCH ABOVE: A group of ladies from Saint John are spreading some joy, one stitch at a time. The women's IODE group is making "twiddle muffs" for seniors suffering from dementia. What is a "twiddle muff" you ask? Here's Global’s Shelley Steeves with the scoop.

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A group of ladies from a Saint John women’s charity group try hard not to giggle as they hand stitch hand-warmer type yarn creations called “twiddlemuffs.”

“It has got a funny name,” Nancy Ross said.

READ MORE: N.B. woman’s hand-crafted ‘cuddle dolls’ comfort seniors with dementia

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Since March, members of the IODE Katie Hazen MacKay Chapter have been gathering every week to knit twiddlemuffs for seniors suffering from dementia.

A twiddlemuff is a hand muff with bits and bobs attached on the inside and outside. The muffs help to stimulate the restless hands dementia patients.

“They have a tendency to pick at their clothes, so it gives them something to use with their hands,” said Sheila Hicks.

READ MORE: Officials call for new approach to growing number of dementia diagnosis in New Brunswick

Hicks got the idea after seeing a Facebook post on twiddlemuffs in the U.K.

She says studies show when seniors twiddle the buttons and bobbins inside the muffs, it has a calming effect.

According to the Canadian Alzheimer’s society’s website, twiddlemuffs provide visual, tactile and sensory stimulation for people with dementia.

“All of the things we put on them have different textures — there’s buttons, there’s ribbons, there’s bobbles, anything that interests them,” said Hicks.

Brenda Deforest’s mother had Alzheimer’s and says when she would visit her at her nursing home, she would see that some of the residents were agitated.

“In the evening I would see some of the residents there do what they call ‘sundowning,'” said Deforest.

Sundowning refers to the agitation that many people with dementia experience in the the late afternoon and into the evening. The ladies are hoping the twiddlemuffs will help to ease that anxiety.

READ MORE: 15 New Brunswick nursing homes join program to cut seniors’ antipsychotic drug use

The group has been frantically knitting away since early March, barely able to keep up with demand. So far, they’ve donated more than 100 twiddle muffs to hospitals and nursing homes in the region.

“We have taken on an initiative to reduce anti-psychotic medications in nursing homes and the twiddlemuffs will certainly help with the transition,” said Shelley Wilkins, executive director of the Church of Saint John and St. Stephen Home.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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