Sudbury agency provides stimulating 'comfort kits' to Alzheimer's patients

The Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin North Bay is hoping its care kits for dementia patients provide a measure of relief and comfort for sufferers of the disease by stimulating the senses.

Customized kits trigger soothing response in patients

The Sudbury Alzheimer's Society creates customized 'comfort kits' which help ease stress for patients. (Angela Gemmill CBC)

The Alzheimer Society of Sudbury-Manitoulin and North Bay is hoping its care kits for Alzheimer's patients provide a measure of relief and comfort for sufferers of the disease by stimulating the senses.

Cindy Pilkey, the organization's activity coordinator, says the individualized kits provide sensory stimulation to remind patients of calmer, soothing times.

The main part of the kit is an item that goes by various quirky names like fiddle funster or twiddlymuff. These are either lap blankets or hand muffs with various items attached that provide sensory stimulation.

"Each [kit] is different so we can alter it to meet the needs of the patient," Pilkey said, "depending on where the person's at with the disease, some kits have more texture, [some have] little pockets, little things for sensory simulations. It keeps them busy and provides extra comfort."

The kits can be the size of a duffel bag, or small enough to fit in a bedroom drawer, Pilkey said. Sometimes the kit is simply a whiteboard with a marker. It's all about finding what is most soothing for the patient.

"The women tend to like the muff style, reminiscent of when they used to have muffs in the winter," Pilkey said, "[they're] comforting, cozy."

These kits aren't prepared beforehand. Pilkey takes time getting to know the patients, so the kits are outfitted with things meant specifically for the individual.

"You can have scented lotions, a scent that person enjoys, [that] reminds them of pleasant times," she said, "if they're a woodworker, we might add pieces of wood and sandpaper."

Pilkey says she's also seen patients use a "life book."

"It's a book of different envelopes where they can collect recipes or pictures, put them in envelopes," she said, "later they can take the things out of envelopes, keeps them occupied and thinking of pleasant they're not stressed."

Pilkey said the kits are meant to be simple, since the disease plays havoc with a patient's ability to communicate.

"The biggest thing is there's a lot of losses in communications, [patients] can't always communicate their needs," she said, "Sense of touch gets lost as they get older."

"Everybody needs a hand to hold.. It's about connecting with the environment."

The items used in these kits are donated, and Pilkey suggests that anyone wanting to help contact the society to get an idea of the kinds of items they need.

For more information or to request a Comfort Care Kit contact the Alzheimer Society at 705-524-2024.

With files from Angela Gemmill.


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