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

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

Advanced dementia - what can you do? How about polishing shoes? 

When someone is living with advanced dementia it can feel like there is nothing meaningful they can do to pass the time. Working with people at this stage is one of the challenges of my job but also the most rewarding.

Michael (not his real name) was a 'wanderer'; an unhelpful description often used for someone living with dementia who can't sit still. Michael worked in the building trade all his life and so was used to being busy. His dementia had advanced to the stage that he had no verbal communication, an apparently limited understanding of the world around him and little interest in activities. Michael was, however, fully mobile and so spent much of his waking hours walking around the home. When I was introduced to the idea of using Montessori methods with dementia Michael sprang to mind and of all the things I tried shoe polishing was the stand out success.

Polishing shoes

Although it may be a generalisation I believe it was typical 50-60 years ago for the man of the house to polish the shoes. Assuming the same was true in Michael's house he will have polished a fair few shoes and boots during his life time.

I presented a pair of shoes, some polish and 2 brushes on the table in front of Micheal. He barely acknowledged them.

I put the brush in his hand but he put it back on the table.

The next step was to put the brush in Michael's hand and put my hand over the top. We started to brush the shoe together. I gently let go and straight away Michael slipped his hand in the shoe just the way he will have done all those years ago, and polished the shoe.  This activity lasted a mere 3 minutes but throughout those 3 minutes Michael was smiling. 

 

We know from research that the feelings experienced by someone living with dementia from a recent experience far outlive the memory of that experience so I felt sure that the satisfaction or pleasure that Michael felt for that brief time will have stayed with him for a longer than he will have remembered the activity itself. Now that we knew Michael was able and happy to do this task we were able to repeat it many times.

My tips for trying new tasks with someone living with advanced dementia:

  • Acknowledge the individuals life history and past hobbies and interests, but don't be ruled by them. They may have hated gardening once but will now find pleasure in filling a pot with compost.
  • Remember that muscle memory - the brain's ability to remember often practiced movements is a powerful (if not well understood) phenomenon so any physical tasks that someone has performed time and time again may still be useable even when their dementia advances.
  • Choose your moment when introducing a new task. You are looking for a calm, wakeful time when the person is responsive.
  • Don't be disheartened if the person doesn't show interest the first time. Unless you get a strong negative reponse you can try again another time.
  • Gradually add support as required. i.e. start by presenting the task. Then, if necessary show how it is done, then hold over the person's hand as you do it with them. The final level would be to demonstrate only. This in itself can be a welcome distraction for the person you are working with.
Posted by Jenny Trott Tuesday, August 11, 2015 2:01:00 PM Categories: Advanced dementia Daily tasks 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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