‘Fid­get quilt’ turns rest­less­ness into com­fort for hospi­tal de­men­tia pa­tient

Windsor Star - - CITY+REGION - TAMAR HAR­RIS Thar­ris@postmedia.com Twit­ter.com/Ta­marmhar­ris

Bore­dom and rest­less­ness was no match for a “fid­get quilt” cre­ated by a Ho­tel-Dieu nurse and her mother.

Katie Tonkin, an RPN at HotelDieu Grace Health­care, no­ticed that “Mary” was fid­gety, rest­less and bored: com­mon symp­toms of her de­men­tia di­ag­no­sis.

Want­ing to help make Mary’s days more com­fort­able, Tonkin en­listed her mother, Julie, to cre­ate a “fid­get quilt” to help dis­tract and stim­u­late Mary (Mary is not the pa­tient’s real name, which can­not be re­leased for pri­vacy rea­sons).

The re­sult was a quilt dec­o­rated with sewn-on ob­jects like zip­pers, but­tons, the bot­tom half of a baby one­sie and beads — all sim­ple things to cre­ate dis­trac­tion.

“It’s all about tex­tures and feels and just keep­ing her mind busy,” Tonkin ex­plained.

De­men­tia is an es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult med­i­cal prob­lem to treat, said Dr. Robert Biswas, the clin­i­cal lead of geri­atrics at Ho­tel-Dieu.

“The hall­mark is that if we can treat th­ese (con­di­tions) with­out us­ing med­i­ca­tions, that’s cer­tainly by-and-far the best way to do that, if we can.”

Biswas said a com­mon theme in treat­ment is keep­ing the pa­tients oc­cu­pied, which he said is prob­a­bly why the quilt works.

“Any sort of dis­trac­tion is ben­e­fi­cial,” he said.

De­men­tia vests are of­ten used to help rest­less pa­tients. The vest with zip­pers, but­tons and other add-ons help to oc­cupy a pa­tient’s time, much in the same way the quilt would.

But the vest wasn’t ideal for Mary, Tonkin said, be­cause she wouldn’t be able to look at it. They also con­sid­ered mak­ing a pil­low­case be­fore fi­nally opt­ing for a por­ta­ble, wash­able quilt.

Tonkin said she was ex­cited to en­list her mother, a re­tired early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor and for­mer City of Wind­sor em­ployee, in the project. Julie was ea­ger to help, and the quilt was com­pleted in less than two days.

The mother-daugh­ter pair went to a sec­ond-hand store and sorted through old clothes and crafts of Katie’s to find ob­jects suit­able for the blan­ket.

After bring­ing Mary the quilt, the ef­fect was im­me­di­ate, Tonkin said.

“I was worried,” Tonkin ad­mit­ted. “Is it go­ing to work, is it not go­ing to work? But it did.”

Mary’s be­hav­iour stead­ied and the quilt kept her happy and oc­cu­pied.

Biswas said non-phar­ma­co­log­i­cal op­tions “are looked at very pos­i­tively.”

He added that there’s no real harm in try­ing ther­a­peu­tic op­tions like a fid­get quilt, whereas med­i­ca­tion can carry risk.

Mary’s be­hav­iour was so steady, in fact, that she no longer had to take med­i­ca­tion given as-needed to calm rest­less pa­tients.

“It made me really happy,” Tonkin said.

“I care about my job, and I care about help­ing peo­ple,” the nurse of eight months said. “I think, if it were my family mem­ber, what would I want? Or how would I help my mom, in this sit­u­a­tion. I like it, in that sense. It just made me really happy.”

This fid­get quilt made by Katie Tonkin and her mother Julie helps steady a de­men­tia pa­tient.


Katie Tonkin, a reg­is­tered prac­ti­cal nurse at Ho­tel-Dieu Grace Health­care, knit­ted a fid­get quilt with her mother.


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