Anything But Bingo

Resources to enhance the daily life of people living with dementia

An easier way to knit 

One of the most common skills that seems to be lost amongst (mostly) women I work with, as their dementia progresses is knitting. This can be because of physical difficulties like arthritis but most often due to a lack of confidence of ability in this complex task. The actual knitting; putting the needle in, taking the wool around, pulling the needle through and pushing the stitch off are second nature, like a riding a bike. However following a pattern or even remembering which stitch you are knitting can be daunting and a game changer. 

Bearing this in mind I was excited to come across a different way to work with wool / yarn that is straightforward. More importantly this technique can easily be shared between two people, allowing a partner to assist if it is too complex for an individual on their own; something you just can't do with traditional knitting.

Knitting looms aren't new, I can remember using a knitting doll when I was a child. This version is bigger and so easier to use for someone who finds fine motor control difficult, and the loom can be made from items that you will have in the house, or can get easily and at low cost. Once I started researching home-made looms I found lots of versions online, many made from cardboard tubes, or even a tissue box. My first trial run was with a cardboard tube and, unless you have a very thick postal tube to work with they just aren't up to the physical handling that a loom has to withstand whilst knitting. So this is my own version using a tin can.

 

Making  a knitting loom

You will need: an empty tin can, scissors, 2 elastic bands, Duct tape (or similar heavy duty tape), 8 large (15cm) lollipop sticks.

(Follow the link above, or here to find lollipop sticks)

 

What to do:

1. Open tin using a tin opener at both ends (even if the tin has a ring pull) so that you don't’ get sharp edges. Empty contents and carefully and thoroughly clean and dry the tin.

2. Use the Duct tape around the top and bottom edges of the tin to cover any remaining sharp edges. Only go to the next step if you are happy that the edges are not sharp and the tin is safe to use.

3. Put the two elastic bands around the tin. One by one place the lollipop sticks around the tin under the elastic bands. Space them out evenly and so that about 3cm of the stick stands above the top edge of the tin (some of the stick will also hang over the bottom edge).

4. Once you are happy that the lollipop sticks are in the right place wrap Duct tape around the tin making sure it has stuck well to both the sticks and also the tin between the sticks. Now your loom is ready!

 

It really is that straightforward and it should withstand a fair bit of use.

Tip:

This could easily be made as an activity itself. The lollipop sticks often seem to have small nicks and splinters along their sides so a bit of sanding paper does the trick. Some of the gentlemen I work with like doing this job as it is a familiar task and is clearly helping to work towards a specific outcome. 

So now you want to know how to use it?! I have detailed instructions below and I have also added a PDF at the bottom of the page so you can print out instructions to keep with the loom. If it still isn't clear then a quick 'Google' of "knitting loom videos" will provide you with some help.

 

How to use the knitting loom

1. Drop the free end of the wool through the centre of the loom so that it hangs about 10cm below the bottom edge. Then wrap the wool clockwise round one of the sticks and take it around the back of that stick and the back of the stick to its right.

2. Then loop the wool clockwise around this stick; around its back, and then the back of the stick to its right. 

3. Continue this around the whole loom; "behind two sticks and then loop it around, behind two sticks and then loop it around" and so on. It should then look like this:

4. Repeat for a second time around the loom.

5. If you look at the outside of the loom you will see two loops around each stick. Start 'knitting' at the first stick to the right of where you last looped over your wool. Take the bottom loop of the two and take it over the top of the loop above it and drop it over the back of the stick. Repeat this all the way around the loom moving right each time. Once you have finished that round of knitting give the yarn hanging out the bottom of the loom a little tug to pull it down a little.

6. When you have worked your way all round the loom and you are left with only single loops on each stick you need to wind the wool around again, just like you did at the beginning. i.e. "behind two sticks and then loop it around, behind two stick and then loop it around".... You might want to push the two loops down on each stick before proceeding.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 and you will start to see your 'knitting' coming through the bottom of the loom. Keep going until you have knitted enough. 

8. To finish off stop 'knitting when you have one loop on each stick. The take one loop and move it onto the stick to its right. Loop the bottom loop over the top one. Repeat; each time you are freeing up one more stick. Continue until you have only one loop on one stick. Cut the yarn, take the loop off the final stick and pass the end of the wool through it. Pull tight to make a knot.

 

Tip:

If this activity needs to be simplified further the care partner can do the winding preparation for each round of the loom and then assist the person with dementia to loop the wool over. My photos show me doing the 'looping' with my fingers. It can also be done with a crochet hook. In fact I found that the easiest way to do it is to hold the loom so that the person is pulling the loop towards them, like this:

 

I have added a free PDF file of the instructions for using the loom so please do print them off and keep them with your loom.

 How to use your knitting loom - PDF

The only thing that remains is to decide how to use your wonderful knitting. A scarf is the obvious idea but I've also seen it used for a bobble hat ... get creative!!

 

Posted by Jenny Trott Monday, January 11, 2016 12:55:00 PM Categories: Activities Alzheimers Craft Montessori

Memory Boxes for people with dementia - Making it personal 

Memory Boxes are taking hold and gaining popularity amongst trainers, therapists and care homes.

I have taken a very personal approach to researching how to put together a memory box and how it might be used. This has been a very self indulgent exercise and one which has thrown up as many questions as answers.

A memory box is a container in which memorabilia, meaningful items and representative things are put. Anecdotal evidence shows a therapeutic benefit for the elderly and people with dementia when the box is used to stimulate memories, feelings and conversation. But how do you put together a memory box? What should you put in it? I decided to make my own memory box and share that experience and what I have learnt.

(There are other types of memory boxes. Themed boxes on a subject like 'make do and mend' or 'school days' are more of a generic reminiscence aid. Some care homes are using wall mounted 'memory boxes' which are put outside each resident's room to help them locate themselves. This post is looking at very personal and unique memory boxes which are used on a 1:1 basis.)

Which box?

A white cardboard box for me, it's plain and boring but does the job. What are the options? Really anything you can put your hands on. I love the idea of someone's memory box being their old picnic hamper or briefcase, but really anything will do. I would bear in mind that if it is a large container don't be tempted to fill it to the brim or you won't be able to rummage or ever feel like you have looked at everything before attention starts to wane. Much of the advice I have read elsewhere suggests using a box small enough to fit on someone's lap. I disagree as I find a box of items on the lap of someone with dementia can be overwhelming and confusing. I have found that having a box nearby, on a neighbouring table allows you to draw attention to it and present one or two items at a time.

Collecting for my memory box - what didn't make the cut

When I first thought about make my own memory box I wrote a list of things I thought would go in. My first surprise was that some of the items on that list didn't actually end up in my box. For example I love cooking and have done since I was a child. When I came to my book shelf none of my cookery books sparked any kind of emotional feelings, even books I've had for 35 years. In a similar way my art and craft supplies were also bypassed and in their place I chose a selection of stickers bought when I was a child. These remind me of going in "itty bitty shops" where I would buy stickers, erasers and pencils with my mum. This was my second lesson ; ideally the choice is an emotional and personal one. It might not be the items that signify events or interests in someone's life, but more the things with a story or specific memory attached to them that will evoke the most feeling.

It worries me that this isn't a helpful lesson for me to share. If you are putting together a memory box for someone else you may not have their emotional and personal perspective to directly draw from. However if you can recall stories that your loved one has shared with you, or things that you have repeatedly laughed or cried at these are more likely the ones that will elicit the best reminiscence rather than everyday experiences that hold little emotional draw.

How would my memory box change over time if I had dementia?

While I created my memory box I was very aware that it is a snapshot of my life as I see it and feel it now. For example new hobbies and interests don't feature as they didn't feel important enough, and people who who have passed away feature more heavily. I think because I am used to relying on physical reminders of those loved ones, such as things my late father made, they have a greater 'feeling' to them. This makes me wonder how you might need to adapt someone's memory box as their recollections change and memories are harder to reach. So my third lesson is that memory boxes should change as the memory of the person they are for also changes. If your friend or relative no longer recalls her days as a teacher then her class register might cause confusion. Instead swap it for a photo of her uncle that she now regularly refers to.

Using a sensory approach

Amongst my treasures are things to look at such as photos and letters and things to touch like my old doll and a wooden toy. I would also like to add a bottle with the scent of aviation fuel ... weird I know but having lived on military airbases for the earlier years of married life I associate the smell with a special time. I would also like a recording of my son's communication aid that he uses to talk; maybe saying "Mummy cuddle", and a copy of Don McLean's 'American Pie'.  If you are interested in using music for reminiscence take a look at the late Oliver Sacs' wonderful book, Musicophilia, in which he looks at the beneficial effect music can have on people living with dementia. To address the sense of taste think it would have to be Cadbury Dairy Milk! We know that sensory approaches to working with people with dementia are very valuable and I think a memory box is no exception.  Lesson four is therefore to take a multi sensory approach and include things that stimulate as many senses as possible.

What about putting valuables in your memory box?

Almost every other source of advice that I have found about memory boxes suggests that you don't put in anything of value. I can understand this if the box is to be left in a care home for all to access. If it were my memory box, however, I would be sad not to have the silver bracelet that my Mum bought for me in a posh jewellers in Kensington for my 18th, or the costume jewellery Christmas tree brooch the elderly lady next door gave me when I was 7. My solution is to have a special memory box that you can bring out at home to look at together and then put away again safely afterwards, or take it with you when you visit someone in a care home and take away again afterwards. That way you can share memories about treasured and maybe valuable items without fear of them going astray.  So please don't be put off making your memory box a real treasure trove, just be mindful where it is kept.

Might a memory box cause distress to someone with dementia?

Possibly, and so my final lesson is that we must be attentive, sensitive and willing to adapt. Into my box I have put a wooden duck that my Dad made and a ruler that he used, and signed his name on (my father died when I was 7). Right now those items make me feel comfortable and happy as they are a connection with someone I lost so long ago. It is entirely possible though that if I was living with dementia and experiencing the world differently those things might be quite upsetting for me. In this case we can react straight away by removing those object from the memory box and replacing them with something else. I'd like to explore a caveat here though. I think there is a danger in trying to avoid all negative feelings when we are working with or spending time with someone with dementia. The "please don't cry", "please don't be upset" reaction. But feelings, even sad ones are valid, and need to be acknowledged, so finding a balance is my aim. A little sadness as we remember people lost to us is normal and healthy. But of course more extreme distress, anger or confusion caused by any reminiscence would be counterproductive. 

I would recommend you all to explore the idea of memory boxes, if only to think about or hopefully create your own. From a professional stand point I think it is even more valuable to have a personal experience of putting a memory box together to allow you to really engage with the ideas behind what reminiscence is all about. If you are reading this as a relative or friend of someone living with dementia I hope that this has given you a different and more personal perspective to read alongside some of the other advice on memory boxes and that it will inspire you to create one and, most importantly use it!

 

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Posted by Jenny Trott Sunday, September 06, 2015 5:52:00 PM Categories: Activities Advanced dementia Alzheimers Reminiscence

CREATIVE WAYS TO USE YOUTUBE - ACTIVITIES FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA 

YouTube is free and easy to use and offers endless choice so take a look at some of my suggestions and start surfing!

If you have access to a desktop computer, laptop, Ipad or tablet there are numerous ways to use them to have fun and learn, and there is no reason that someone living with any level of dementia shouldn't also benefit from this technology. I will look at Apps and other uses of technology another day but for now I am going to focus on using YouTube.

If you haven't come across YouTube before it is a video sharing website. Individuals and organisations post videos and anyone can watch them for free.

Reminiscence

Reminiscence is a well researched approach that has beneficial effects for older people and especially those with dementia. Newer memories tend to be the first memories to be lost as the disease progresses so looking back at events from further in the past can be reassuring and comforting. How can you use YouTube for reminiscence? This is where a person centred approach is key. Focus on the individuals own interests, history and preferences.

  • Did the person you are working with love Rock and Roll, Elvis or an opera you have never heard of? Did they used to roar with laughter at Only Fools and Horses or Monty Python? If you type any of these words into the search box on the YouTube website you will get a huge list of clips to watch. 
  • Newsworthy events from the past can also be good triggers for reminiscence. British Pathe has it's own YouTube channel where you can find newsreels on the Monarchy, Concorde's first flight, VE day celebrations and so much more.

Entertainment

  • One of the most successful YouTube films that I have used was a compilation of babies laughing. A lady I worked with who was nearing the end of her journey with dementia was captivated with these films and would laugh and try to tickle the babies on the screen. This lady had also enjoyed spending times with dolls so it was a natural choice to show her these beautiful joyful babies. On seeing this lady laughing at the film other residents and staff also began laughing. The room lit up. Laughter is contagious!
  • There are also a multitude of films about animals too, so a search for 'funny cats' or 'cute dogs' will give you a long list of choices.

Creativity

  • Are you doing an art project based on a famous artist? We did some work about the glass artist Chihuly and found a great short film about his installations. It adds a little extra to your project.
  • If you are trying a new craft project there are countless tutorials on anything and everything you can imagine. Many of these tutorials are presented by children. I found this one was a refreshing choice of film type as the ladies I was working with enjoyed watching the children at work (and there are some funny bloopers at the end of this particular example!).

Education

  • The opportunity for learning from YouTube is extensive. Pick your subject and search. National Geographic has a great channel to explore.
  • There is also a wealth of information if you want to learn about dementia yourself. I can highly recommend any of Teepa Snow's films,  Alzheimers Society has a library of films on their channel as does Alzheimer Scotland. If you are looking for craft projects or cooking advice you can start your search on YouTube.

General Advice

  • I would always check films before you use or watch them with someone with dementia. Some videos are poor quality or there might be large subtitles that could be distracting, or even have unsuitable content slipped in.
  • You will need an internet connection to access YouTube and its videos. There are apps and websites that enable you to download YouTube videos to watch offline. This contravenes YouTube's policies.
  • It might sound obvious but if the person you are with has difficulty concentrating for long periods make sure you chose shorter films. When you search for videos on YouTube it lists the results. A black box is shown in the bottom right hand corner  of each result showing the length of the film in hours:minutes so you can choose suitable videos.
  • It helps to keep a collection of films that have been successful or you think might be nice to try. At the top of the YouTube website is a 'sign in' box. This will take you to either register for a Google account or Sign in if you already have one. Once you have an account you can set up playlists and save your chosen videos.
  • Sometimes adverts or comments appear along the bottom of the screen when you are watching YouTube films. If you hover your mouse over the comment box a cross (x) should appear on the right which you can 'click' to remove the comment box.
  • You can expand the box in which the film is showing to fill your comupter screen by clicking on the   symbol at the bottom right hand corner of the video.

 

I would love to know about other uses for YouTube that you have found, or videos that you would like to share so please use the comments section below or the Anything But Bingo Facebook page.

Also, I have finally set up the option to subscribe to Anything But Bingo. You can either select the Subscribe tab at the top of the website, or click the link below. I can then let you know each time I put up a new post.

 

 

Posted by Jenny Trott Tuesday, September 01, 2015 2:27:00 PM Categories: Activities Advanced dementia Alzheimers IT

EASY 'STAINED GLASS EFFECT' ART PROJECT 

This arts and craft project is easy, uses everyday items and can be adapted to match the abilities of someone living with dementia.

I'm excited about this post because arts and crafts is one of my favourite activities to do both personally and at work. This particular project worked incredibly well when we did it in a care home and the results became a much admired part of our art show. I've called it a stained glass window but it isn't transparent, it just gives the colourful effect of a window. Theoretically I think it should be called a foil relief, but that doesn't sound as pretty as they look!

I've listed everything you need and described and photographed each step, so hopefully it should be easy to follow. I've also included ways to adapt the activity at each step. One of the most exciting things about creative activities is that I start with an idea about how a finished project should look and afterwards we end up with a selection of completely different results; each one is unique, each one is personal, each one is perfect. It doesn't matter if your stained glass window looks like mine, if it is all one colour, if the lines aren't straight or if there are holes in the foil. What matters is if you can both enjoy making it, so try to see youself as a guide rather than only a demonstrator and let the activity take its own course. It can take a bit of practice to find the balance between showing someone how to do something and doing the whole activity yourself on their behalf.

The stained glass window you make can be put on display, hung in the window or even given away as a gift. I always make a point of making sure that any art or craft creation is used in some way. I think it is important that activity should be purposeful even if that purpose is to have something pretty to look at.

What you need:

  • cardboard - you can use a cereal box or packing box, or indeed any cardboard you can find
  • string or wool
  • glue - either a glue stick / pritstick or a liquid glue
  • scissors
  • sellotape
  • tin foil - I've used extra-thick foil but a thinner foil will be fine
  • coloured marker pens - I prefer Sharpies but any marker pens will do the job. As I found out today, felt tip pens don't work!

 

What to do:

  1. Cut out a square or oblong piece of cardboard. Don't make it too big as it will take longer to colour in. Mine is 13cm x 15cm. Adapt: Person can hold cardboard as you cut it.
  2. Cut lengths of string or wool that are a little longer than the card in both directions. Adapt: Person can hold string as you cut, or visa versa.
  3. Rip off or cut a piece of foil that is at least 5cm bigger than your card on each side. Adapt: Put your hand over theirs to help tear the foil / person can hold foil box as you rip a piece off.
  4. Spread glue all over the carboard. If you are using a glue stick / pritstick be generous with it. Adapt: "take it in turns" so that you can fill in any gaps left behind / put your hand over theirs to guide the glueing.
  5. Lay the pieces of string over the card as shown in the photo. You are aiming to create shapes that you will later colour in. Adapt: Ask where they would like the string to go / take an end of the string each so that you can guide its position.
  6. Place your foil over the top of the cardboard and string. Using the palm of your hand and pads of your fingers start to press down, paying particular attention to either side of the string. As you do this you will see the pattern of the string start to appear. It is easy to pierce the foil if you use fingernails to push the foil down so try to avoid this. Adapt: Ask the person to place their hand on top of yours as you push the foil down / ask them to concentrate on one area at a time rather than be overwhelmed or confused by the entire piece.
  7. You should now be able to see each piece of string and the shapes that they have created. Turn over the cardboard.
  8. Fold over the edges of the foil and string. You can describe this as like wrapping a present which may help the person understand what you are asking them to do. Then sellotape the edges down to secure them. Turn your cardboard back over so that you can see the front.
  9. You can now start colouring in the shapes. You can see some normal felt-tip pens in this photo. They didn't work so you need to use marker pens like the Sharpie I have in my hand or a permanent marker pen like the fat blue one in the photo. You can often find these at pound shops. It doesn't matter if the colour overlaps, or there isn't much variety of colour. Try not to push down with the pen as you'll pierce the foil, but again, it doesn't matter if you do. Adapt: You can do some of the colouring too if the quantity of space to fill is overwhelming but try to do it at the same time rather than taking over.

Enjoy the final piece of art and share the success with your visitors and each other.

 

I hope that you will have a go at this project. I would love to see photos of your final pieces so please do share them on the Facebook page.

Posted by Jenny Trott Wednesday, August 26, 2015 12:00:00 AM Categories: Activities Advanced dementia Alzheimers Art Craft

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN 

I love matching activities for people living with dementia; you can use things you have around the house or be more creative if you have the time (and means), and you can tailor them to an individuals interests. As with many of my activity ideas, matching tasks are good for someone who's dementia is at a stage when they are finding it difficult to fill their time and would rather sit and do nothing rather than try to complete tasks they might have once found satisfying and fullfilling. Tasks such as these can be a relatively easy way to provide distraction and be a meaningful way to keep the brain active and mind occupied.

Why do matching activities work?

  • I'm no academic but, from what I have seen in practice, matching games can be a good way to engage someone who is looking for some brain stutimulation but who's abilities have declined such that they can't manage more complex challenges.
  • Matching activities are by design done by an individual rather than group and so they remove any anxieties about "getting it right" in front of others, or indeed can be done in your home with minimal support.
  • As I suggested above matching activites can be entirely personalised. Making sure an activity holds some interest for the person rather than being a meaningless task can help to improve their levels of engagement, maybe also promoting conversation alongside the activity.

 

You can use things around the house

Matching socks, finding the right lid for each bottle, sorting cutlery into a cutlery tray. All these things can be found in your own home. If you are finding it difficult to persuade the person living with dementia to begin the task I might suggest it is a job that needs to be done and that it "would be a great help if you would sort these things out for me".

 

 

You can be creative

A great way to personalise a matching task is to use a topic of interest for the indivudal. For example one of the ladies I have worked with loved butterflies. I had discovered this whilst looking though a wildlife magazine with her one day. Using that knowledge I was able to make her a butterfly matching game as you see here.

 

I have also made a more complex spot matching game; this involved not just matching one colour but three. I had been worried that it was too complicated but with some guidance and support it was achievable by some of my clients, and those that did finish it had a great sense of achievement afterwards!

I made the butterfly and spot games on the computer, putting photos or shapes into a Word document, printing them and laminating. But don't let that put you off making one yourself, you could also make games using pictures cut out from magazines, or even drawing shapes onto paper.

This key matching game is made from a selection of keys kindly donated from a key cutting shop and drawing round them on a sheet of paper.

I have included PDF printables of the spot game below, so feel free to make one yourself and give it a go. Let me know how it works.

More ideas

Match object to photos; take photos of small objects around the house (e.g. a button, cotton reel, wooden spoon, golf ball etc) and then print them out. Keep the objects and photos together and ask the person to put the correct item with it's photograph.

Match halves of playing cards; cut a pack of playing cards in half and ask the person to put the halfs side by side again. Depending on their abilities it may be an idea to only present a small collection of cards - the entire 52 card pack might be too overwhelming!

Match fabric scraps; if sewing is of interest and you can lay your hands on some scraps of fabric you can cut the scraps into two pieces and ask the person to find the matching piece.

Colour matching; paint colour samples are freely available at DIY stores. If you can get hold of some pegs too you can easily make a colour matching game.

 

I am interested to hear your feedback on my ideas and also if they have worked for you, so please do comment below.

 

Game Set Match.

 

Printable spot game PDF

 

 

Posted by Jenny Trott Tuesday, August 18, 2015 3:37:00 PM Categories: Activities Advanced dementia Alzheimers Daily tasks Games Montessori

               Who am I?

 

Jenny

I am a forty-something mother of two.

I love learning and creating, and do

what I can to improve the well-being

of people living with dementia.

I have worked in residential dementia

care for a few years and hope that I

have something useful to share.

 

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