Dementia Friends Champion Helen Morris offers some thoughts on comfort and disquiet.
Comfort and disquiet, two opposite ends of a scale, are often experienced by people living with dementia and their carers where one is comfortable and at peace and the other is unhappy and unsettled.
Frequently this is the result of efforts to ‘safeguard’ the person’s physical health and safety where this is at odds with their wishes.
One difficult example is the very contentious issue of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards or DoLS and I will write about this next month. For now I want to discuss ‘Twiddlemuffs’ which are proving extremely popular but have been banned in some environments!
A ‘Twiddlemuff’ is a knitted hand muff, with textured items knitted outside and inside, designed for people who have more advanced dementia, where agitation can cause restless hand movements or where there is little interaction with others.
They can be twiddled with and the variety of textures and colours give sensory pleasure and keep hands warm.
Originally created by Margaret Light of USA, they are now produced by many UK knitting groups thanks to the availability of patterns on the web.
This photo shows one of the 34 Twiddlemuffs created by the Monday at Eight Club from Uppermill Methodist Church which we introducing to Avonleigh Gardens and Stoneswood.
I think they’re a great use of voluntary energy but we do need to consider safeguarding issues – health and safety, hygiene and resident interaction.
As we introduce them to the homes we discuss these potential issues with staff and relatives. It was agreed Twiddlemuffs should be introduced gradually, with sensitivity and in a person-centred way to residents who can really appreciate them.
They must be kept clean and with the same person at all times, so staff briefing is essential. We are balancing the comfort they can create for the person with dementia with the disquiet they could cause carers but we’re managing the risk rather than avoiding it.
I think they are worth the effort required and would encourage any groups to consider creating some Twiddlemuffs for people in our hospitals, care homes and community – but please talk it through with their carers and managers first.
I am always happy to run Dementia Friends sessions for free – just call me on 07976 702171 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or check or see if I have any public sessions on the website www.dementiafriends.org.uk