Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are very confusing and can be upsetting for the person suffering from the cognitive changes as well as their caretakers. As the disease progresses and cognitive decline heightens, it does not remove the basic human needs including cognitive stimulation and meaningful purpose. Many caretakers find it difficult to keep the severely cognitively impaired loved one calm or engaged. We like to remind family members and loved ones that if you were told to sit still with no stimulation all day, it would be difficult. Your mind will wander and you’ll find ways to keep your mind and body active. For the dementia patient, this is not as easy and can be nearly impossible. One great way to keep the dementia patient active and calm is to offer them a way to channel their energy and their behaviors. Sensory blankets, or fidget blankets, are a great gift to help! In today’s post, we will fill you in on these simple inventions and just how helpful they are.

What are sensory blankets?

Sensory blankets, also referred to as fidget blankets, are small fabric blankets that feature a variety of sensory items for the fidgeting hands of a restless Alzheimer’s patient to play with. There really is no wrong way to create a sensory blanket and they can be made out of nearly any material. Sensory blankets are typically very small, like hand towel size, and can easily sit on the patient’s lap without being cumbersome. Some are quilted, knitted, or are simply repurposed receiving blankets with sensory items attached.

What to include on a sensory blanket

Sensory blankets can include nearly any hand-held item that can be attached to the small blanket. Common fidget-friendly attachments include velcro tabs, ribbon flaps, buttons, zippers, buckles, and pockets. Fidget blankets can be personalized to the individual and include familiar items including garden gloves, hair curlers, doll hair, suspender clips, shoelaces, shirt cuffs, or a loose tie. Many seniors with dementia enjoy rolling small items in their fingers, so include strands of wooden or plastic beads. There really are no wrong items to include. Although, safety should be the primary concern. If you are making or purchasing a fidget blanket, ensure that your loved one cannot hurt themselves when they are mindlessly fidgeting with it. A good rule of thumb is, if a baby could use the blanket during tummy time, it is safe for your elderly loved one. Also, keep in mind that the blanket should be machine washable, so use items that are securely attached and can withstand the wash.

Benefits of Sensory Blankets For the Dementia Patient

There are many benefits of sensory blankets that include:

Keep the hands in motion, purposefully.

Many dementia patients express restlessness and agitation through the hands. If you think about it, it makes sense. Our entire lives are filled with using our hands to work, to care for ourselves and loved ones, to write, to drive, and to complete our hobbies. Sensory blankets help prevent the fidgeting hands that typically pick, rub, scratch, or are wrung. By providing a variety of tactile stimulants, the hands can stay purposefully busy.

Provides comfort and joy.

As we mentioned earlier, you can personalize the sensory blanket to include familiar items to your loved one. Include items from their hobbies or profession and it will put them at ease. Even those who forget who they are can appreciate the familiarity and muscle memory of items they used throughout their lives. This can be very calming and reassuring, even if the dementia prevents them from being aware of how the familiar items were once used.

Encourages tactile coordination.

Any cognitive stimulation is great for exercising the brain, even mindless fidgeting. By playing with buttons and sliding zippers, the mind is still exercising. Encouraging hand-eye coordination and tactile activities, you are helping your elderly loved one exercise their brain and support their cognition. This helps slow cognitive decline.

Prevents adverse behaviors.

Agitation and aggression are common behaviors in those who suffer from dementia. Discomfort and lack of stimulation are common culprits that lead to adverse behaviors and are fueled by confusion. Sensory blankets help provide a distraction and can help redirect energy in a calming way. When attention is waning and restlessness is evident, it is important to offer some sort of redirection and stimulation, and fidget blankets are a great solution in times where immediate activity may not be feasible.

If you are looking for a great gift that is both meaningful and functional for your elderly loved one who suffers from dementia, consider a sensory blanket. You can make it yourself and personalize it for your loved one for a meaningful touch, or you can purchase one online. For more ideas or for quality memory care you and your loved one can count on, contact Serenity Gardens memory care assisted living center today!