The Sunday Magazine

Comfort and warmth for people suffering from dementia

Meet a group of dedicated volunteers who create what are known as "therapeutic hand muffs." In each muff, comfort, warmth and simple stimulation have been literally knitted in, to help people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Noelle Tangredi, Cindy Pandke, and Kim Reid knit therapeutic handmuffs like the ones pictured here to provide comfort, warmth, and stimulation for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's.
Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia often experience terrible agitation. To give them a way to comfort themselves, Noelle Tangredi, Cindy Pandke, and Kim Reid knit therapeutic handmuffs for patients at St. Joseph's Health Care Centre in London, Ontario, where they work.
From left to right: Noelle Tangredi, Cindy Pandke and Kim Reid. (Alisa Siegel)

The three women have transformed a small lunchroom into a makeshift studio, piled high with wool, and bins of buttons, beads and zippers. They say the muffs give patients something to do with their hands and often help them relax. 

"There is a patient downstairs, who in the morning would be very agitated. She'd grab at her clothes, and twist her arms, and wrap her clothes around her hands, and the nurses found her very difficult to get dressed in the mornings. She doesn't open her eyes, and sometimes she screams," Pandke says. 

The knitters attach items like buttons, pockets, small wooden toys and ribbons to the inside and outside of their therapeutic handmuffs, to give patients something to grab on to. (Alisa Siegel)

That patient was given one of the first handmuffs they made.

"She put her hands in there, and she calmed right down," says Pandke. 

Since The Sunday Edition's Alisa Siegel met the three knitters at St. Joseph's, they have been joined by five more.  To date they have produced over 250 hand muffs and delivered them to facilities in St. Thomas, Port Stanley, Aylmer and London, Ontario. 

Tangredi says she hopes the muffs provide some small measure of comfort to patients in a difficult situation. 

"It's as close as we can get to say, 'Here's some warmth and comfort for you. We can't do anything else for you, but here's a hug,'" she says. 

For instructions on how to make therapeutic handmuffs at home, visit this page

Click the button above to hear Noelle Tangredi, Cindy Pandke, and Kim Reid talk about knitting therapeutic handmuffs for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 


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