Tag Archives: gift

Smile For a While and Let’s Be Jolly…

My sister Peggy, age 5, smiling her beautiful smile
My sister Peggy, age 5, smiling her beautiful smile

The Cheshire Cat may have been onto something. Accounts differ as to what inspired Lewis Carroll to use the smiling cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but the majority agrees that he certainly made it famous. A multitude of studies has recently shown that smiling actually changes your brain (in a good way).

That is really good news for those who suffer from some form of dementia, who, along with Alice might find themselves in a strange and confusing world where nothing appears real and everyone seems to be a bit mad. They may also feel frightened and lonely and wish they could simply tap their ruby slippers together three times and go home again….wait; I’ve mixed up my stories. Suffice it to say, dementia is not a pleasant world to live in.

Those caring for loved ones who suffer from dementia may also find themselves living in a strange and lonely world. People they once had lively and meaningful conversations with can no longer chat and may not even recognize them. My Mama, who was smart, witty and a wonderful conversationalist, lost the ability to recognize me in the early stages of her battle with dementia.

This is the time of year when dark feelings of loneliness and depression can magnify – how ironic since the holidays are usually portrayed by scenes of happy family and friends getting together. Of course, the contrast between what is depicted and reality may be a contributing influence in the sadness factor. That, combined with what is referred to as Winter Blues (when days are short), can cause many caregivers to experience feelings of hopelessness.

Back to the smiles.

<em><strong>My sister Peggy and me sharing a laugh. She was always making me smile.</strong></em>
My sister Peggy and me sharing a laugh. She was always making me smile.

Smiles are also contagious; if you smile at someone, they smile, and then you both get a little happier–which can be especially good news for caregivers. Try smiling at your loved one several times throughout your day and watch how they respond.  Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden concluded that frowning when looking at someone smiling is possible, but would be very difficult.

What if you don’t feel like smiling?

Senia, age 4

But wait, there’s more! According to HealthHub.com, smiles– even fake smiles do a lot more than simply let the world know you’re happy. It turns out that there is also a whole host of health benefits to smiling. In an article titled, “15 of the best and free health benefits of smiling” including heart health, pain and stress reduction as well as an increase in productivity and longevity.

Everyone feels depressed now and then, and this is not meant to be a flippant post on the subject. Issues such as sadness and depression are not to be taken lightly. If you or someone you know is experiencing sadness that won’t go away, MentalHelp.net has some good advice on When To Seek Professional Help And Where To Find Help For Major Depression.

The takeaway here is that smiles might just be the best Christmas gift you can give out all season long…and best of all, they’re free!

Twiddle de dee

I remember watching my grandma twiddle her thumbs back when I was a little girl. It fascinated me. She did it all the time – usually while she was sitting in her favorite chair and either visiting or watching TV. She told me it was good to have something for your hands to do while you were waiting. That made sense to me and I remember trying to copy her when she wasn’t looking. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now, but back when I was very young, teaching my thumbs to twiddle felt like a huge accomplishment.

finishing-well-in-life-twiddle
This one is from AbuelaVicky found at Etsy.comhment.

It turns out that no matter how old you become, it is still good to have something for your hands to do. Last year I wrote a post called For that Fidgety Feeling” about something called Fidgety quilts. I loved the idea.

When my Mama lived with us while she was in the middle stages of dementia, she constantly needed something to do. Prior to the onset of dementia, she both knitted and crocheted. But as the dementia became more and more pronounced, she found it difficult to maintain any type of ongoing focus.  She would quickly become bored and forget what she was working on.

We kept her busy with short-term activities such as folding warm towels, sorting colored beads into small bowls

BizzieLizzieKnits
This one is from BizzieLizzieKnits found on Etsy.com

according to their color, and one of her favorites: picking lint off of sweaters. Before dementia struck, Mama was very detail oriented. It made sense as she was a laboratory scientist and paying attention to details was extremely important.

If I had heard about fidgety quilts back then, I believe that Mama would have loved the idea. The fact that they don’t require any special skills or knowledge to play with the various ribbons, buttons and interesting items attached to the quilts makes them perfect for every ability level.

I recently watched a short news video on BBC titled: “Lancashire knitters ‘twiddle muffs’ dementia tool plea” where there was a plea for area knitters to make and donate “twiddle muffs” to local hospitals. The muffs are a great idea – especially if you are a knitter. If you don’t knit, you can still purchase a Twiddle muff for your loved one. They seem to be a bit less expensive as well as more portable than the ‘Fidgety Quilt’ so would make a marvelous Christmas present for a loved one who tends to get fidgety.

Twiddle Kitty
Twiddle Kitty

Once you begin to look, you will discover a whole world of items designed to help give loved ones’ fingers something to do and perhaps reduce periods of agitation.

If you happen to be a knitter perhaps you might consider creating a few extra twiddle muffs to bless someone who could use a thoughtful and helpful gift this Christmas season.

For that ‘Fidgety’ Feeling

If you are still wondering what to get someone who due to dementia might forget the gift shortly after receiving it, I just may have stumbled across the perfect answer. I just received an email about something called ‘Fidget Quilts. It looks like I’m a bit late to the party, as these don’t seem to be a new idea, but since I hadn’t heard about them before, I thought it might help others as well.

fiinishing-well-in-life-fidget-quilt
Fidget Quilt

Fidget quilts are similar to the activity blankets created for babies to help keep them busy and improve motor skills using fun things like crinkle balls, zippers, buttons as well as other shiny and colorful objects.

Folks  with dementia, or any type of cognitive impairment can become anxious or agitated with a change of location such as a doctor visit, hospital or a move to a care facility. The idea behind the fidget quilts is to provide something close at hand to give the hands something to do and hopefully provide the mind with enough of a distraction to allow it to get a bit of rest.

If you sew, or know a seamstress, it might be fun to design something for your loved-one that might be calming. To help out with ideas, a wide variety of examples can be found on Pintrest. If you don’t sew, there are a lot of places to order them online such as an Alzheimers Support page  as well as Etsy.com and Amazon.com.

fiinishing-well-in-life-twiddle-kitty
Twiddle Kitty

After doing a bit of clicking around the internet, I have discovered a whole world of ‘fiddle’ items available: Twiddle Muffs, Fiddle Cushions, Activity Aprons, Bibs, Twiddle Critters and even nut and bolt boards. All splendid ideas. The only caution I have found regarding this is that (just as with a baby), you want to make sure that everything is securely attached.

Have you found an activity that helps your loved-one with fidgeting hands? Or have an experience with the Fidget Quilt? Please share with us what you have learned.