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'Fidget aprons' making the difference for dementia patients

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Marion Cornish and Judith Parker are busy putting the finishing touches on a set of “fidget aprons,” soon to be delivered to an area dementia patient.

“I was a nurse, so I know what happens to people when they have Alzheimer’s and what kind of things they need to keep them busy,” said Cornish.

For the past 10 years, 15 to 20 women have been meeting monthly in Exeter to make “fidget aprons.”

They’re as simple as can be. A wearable apron with tactile things like buttons, zippers, beads, and different kinds of material sewn onto them.

The “aprons” are then distributed to area hospitals and long-term care homes to be used and worn by older adults with cognitive deficits.

“It keeps their hands busy, and keeps them mentally stimulated. The natural curiosity of what happens when I move this zipper, or feel this different material, or reach into that pocket. They’re wonderful,” said Deb Lines, recreation therapist at University Hospital in London.

Volunteers making “fidget aprons” for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in Exeter on Feb. 28, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“They beat drugs. They beat restraints. Hospitals aren’t necessarily geared to cater to who the patient is. This helps to do that,” said Dr. Monidipa Dasgupta, geriatrician at London Health Sciences Centre.

While most fidget aprons end up at hospitals and nursing homes, some are hand delivered to dementia patients in their homes who have short memories and anxious hands.

“A lot of people with dementia have those behaviours, and they need distraction, they need activation. The fidget aprons are really engaging for our older adults, and they allow them to keep some of their cognitive abilities too,” said Francis Taylor, a registered nurse working as Huron-Perth’s Enhanced Psychogeriatric Resource consultant.

Volunteers making “fidget aprons” for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in Exeter on Feb. 28, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

The aprons and all the effort that goes into them prove that Huron County is a “dementia-friendly” community, saif Jeanette Sears from the Huron-Perth Alzheimer Society.

“There are well over 1.000 aprons that are out there in the community. That means there are over 1.000 people with dementia and their families that know that this community cares about them,” said Sears.

Since 2014, Huron’s Fidget Makers have made over 2000 “fidget aprons” for free, with donated material and volunteer sewers.

Volunteers making “fidget aprons” for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in Exeter on Feb. 28, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“In January, 17 of us came to work, and over a few hours of sewing, we made a whole pile of aprons. We can hardly keep up with demand,” said ‘Head Fidgeteer’ Janet Clarke.

The fidget apron campaign has grown so large, the Exeter library now sends out kits for people to make them at home.

“We’re in our happy place making them, and I like to think that once the people receive it, use it, they get to be in their happy place, too,” said one of the fidget apron sewers Judith Parker.

To learn more about the “fidget apron” group, you can reach out to the Exeter Library.

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