Nova Scotia

Cops and quilts: Unlikely partnership forms in Kings County

When you think about tools in the RCMP’s arsenal, blankets aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. But a new partnership is proving some quilts have a place in policing.

Kings District RCMP officers now carry miniature activity blankets on duty

Left to right: Scott Leier (Seniors' Safety Society board member), Michelle Parker (Seniors' Safety Society co-ordinator), Beth McBrine (The 2 Fidgeteers), Cathy Dunbar (The 2 Fidgeteers), and Sgt. Andrew Buckle (Kings District RCMP) display a full-size and some miniature fidget quilts. (Submitted by Michelle Parker)

When you think about tools in the RCMP's arsenal, blankets aren't exactly the first thing that comes to mind, but a new partnership between Kings District RCMP and two other organizations is proving some quilts have a place in policing.

Fidget quilts, or activity blankets, are sometimes used in nursing homes and emergency rooms for people with dementia. The quilts have various textures, patterns and features like keys and zippers that are meant to engage the user.

Kings District RCMP recently received a donation of 70 fidget quilts from Cathy Dunbar and Beth McBrine of The 2 Fidgeteers. Dunbar and McBrine have been making them and giving them to dementia patients for the past 18 months. They say they've made almost 700 in that time.

Each Kings District RCMP office has a full-size fidget quilt, while each RCMP member has a miniature fidget quilt they carry while on duty.

"If they're given an activity, or something to occupy their hands during that time, it helps them and it helps us to do what we have to do to reunite them with their caregivers," said Sgt. Andrew Buckle of the Kings District RCMP. ​​​​​

To make the quilts, Dunbar and McBrine receive cash and material donations from community members and organizations, including the Kings County Seniors' Safety Society.

A small portion of the miniature fidget quilts donated to Kings District RCMP. Miniature fidget quilts have four squares, while the larger ones have 20. (Submitted by Michelle Parker)

Michelle Parker, a co-ordinator with the society, said she heard about fidget quilts and wondered how they could be used in other ways. She approached Buckle and they agreed to implement fidget quilts into everyday policing. They brought their idea to McBrine and Dunbar, who got to work immediately making quilts.

"If you look at the inception of it, a non-profit working both with health and policing, it screams out of the box," said Parker. "The more we delve into the deeper safety and security issues, the more you see a need for thinking outside the box."

Because of the large aging population in Kings County, Parker said it's important that RCMP have the tools to de-escalate certain situations, because they often interact with people with dementia, whether it's an incident in the home or if someone goes missing.

"They often contact police as their No. 1 helper in the community," said Parker.

The Seniors' Safety Society also provided members of the Kings District RCMP with strategies for dealing with dementia patients, which can be very different from dealing with criminal offenders.

Const. Nathan Black of Wolfville RCMP. Each member of Kings District RCMP now carries a miniature fidget quilt at all times. (Submitted by Michelle Parker)

Fidget quilts have only been employed by the Kings District RCMP for a week, but Parker said she's already heard from two other senior safety co-ordinators and two other policing districts about bringing a similar practice to their community.

"I would like to see this model exist for policing across the province," said Parker.

Dunbar and McBrine said they would consider that.

"Our passion is really to make the big ones. Our mantra is comforting persons with dementia one quilt at a time," Dunbar said. "It's a wonderful honour to be chosen, it's a wonderful honour to do it ... we'll cross that bridge when somebody contacts us."