Introducing twiddle sleeves, an exciting new way to knit for dementia patients
Perhaps it was your grandmother or grandfather. Or a beloved aunt or uncle or family friend. Or, perhaps far worse, perhaps it was your own mother or father.
Regardless of who it was, chances are good that you have known or loved someone with dementia.
My first encounter with dementia was with my grandfather. I’ll never forget the one and only time I visited him in his assisted living home. I was there with my parents, my younger sister, and at least one aunt and uncle.
I watched as my aunt talked to him in a bright, happy voice while keeping a smile on her face. And I saw my grandfather’s completely blank eyes and knew he had no idea who any of us were.
It broke my heart.
I didn’t see any of the other behaviors common to dementia patients. I never saw him agitated or confused, and I never saw him forget to eat or make poor food choices.
But I’ll never forget that blank stare.
I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have your mind deteriorate in the way it does with dementia. I mean, sure… like anyone in their mid-40s (and beyond), I forget things. Mix up my words. And I grow frustrated.
Take some of these common behaviors and multiply them by, maybe, a thousand, and you have dementia. And, undoubtedly, more anxiety and frustration than any of us could possibly imagine.
The Original Awesome Tool for Dementia Patients: Twiddle Muffs
That’s why the advent of twiddle muffs for dementia patients has thrilled me. Twiddle muffs are fabric tubes that an individual with dementia can place their hands in. Inside the muffs are little objects for them to “twiddle,” like buttons, ribbons, different textures, and so on.
As any of us who like to fidget knows, having something to manipulate with your fingers can be very soothing. And time and again, experience and research has shown that dementia patients find such actions soothing.
A New Tool: Twiddle Sleeves for Dementia Patients
Knitters and crocheters have been creating twiddle muffs for dementia patients for years. But recently, thanks to Coral Swofford – a member of my Knitting for Charity with Nicole Facebook group – I learned about a new tool. Twiddle sleeves!
Coral posted this article in our group.
As you can see, a group of dedicated knitters in the UK began to create what they called “Cannula Sleeves.” In case you didn’t know, a cannula is a small tube often used to deliver medicine or perform some other such action through a vein or body cavity.
In time they found that these sleeves performed similar functions to twiddle muffs. And as an added bonus, they covered the entrance points of cannulas applied on the arm.
One emergency services trainee has noted the incredible benefits of these sleeves. She said she thought one dementia patient would require sedation to apply a cannula, but thanks to a cannula sleeve, this wasn’t necessary!
Another member of my Facebook group, Linda Hoover Ayers, commented: “These are amazing and not as easily lost as the twiddle muffs. I’ve noticed with our seniors suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s in the nursing homes, they worry about others taking their things or losing them and they hide their precious gifts.
“These would cause less anxiety because they can wear them.”
Coral responded, “Good point. I have seen this too. They get very angry and are convinced someone stole it.”
Sure, to us such a concern seems like an overreaction. But to individuals with dementia, already suffering from confusion and agitation, the disappearance of a beloved soothing tool can be devastating.
You can see how twiddle sleeves could perform such a valuable service!
Create Your Own Twiddle Sleeve!
The original creators of cannula sleeves, Handmade for Dementia, keep a Facebook group that anyone can request to join. If you’d like to join their mission, dive in!
If you’d like to start your own twiddle sleeve project, though, it’s totally possible! Just grab a sleeve pattern, choose some embellishments, and dig in.
Below, I’ve linked to four free knitting patterns for sleeves, followed by a multitude of delightful knitted appliques you can add to your project!
Free Knitting Patterns for Sleeves
Sparkly Sleeves This pattern knits up loosely with a slip stitch pattern. While Frankie designed it for sparkly yarn, you can instead use any non-sparkly yarn.
Sleeves without a Sweater I love that the designer of this pattern wrote it in both English and German! This is a fully ribbed sleeve.
Georgia Sleeves You’ll make these sleeves using simple stockinette stitch through the body and ribbing at either end.
Stripey Arms This pattern is similar to Georgia Sleeves, because it too has a stockinette body and ribbed edges. Its crucial difference: its pretty stripes!
Embellishments for Your Twiddle Sleeves:
All of these quick, simple knitting patterns are completely free! Once you knit them, you can sew them onto the outside of any of the preceding sleeve projects. And then, voila — your very own twiddle sleeve!
If the idea of soothing a dementia patient’s agitation excites you as much as it does me, I hope you’ll consider creating twiddle sleeves. Think of the amazing feeling of knowing you helped make a dementia patient’s life a little easier!
Have you ever knitted twiddle muffs? Are twiddle sleeves something you think you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments!