Just by way of warning: I will shed tears writing this blog. I struggle, I get angry, and I have had anxiety about writing this blog because it does bring up difficult memories for me. While this blog posting is genuinely intended to help bring joy to the people it touches there may be just a hint of sadness that I can't tuck away. With that said let's talk about a couple of ways fiber artists can love on Alzheimer's patients.
First a couple of facts just to give us some scope. 5.7 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer's disease. www.alz.org/facts/ 5 percent of people afflicted with Alzheimer's disease develop symptoms before the age of 65. When we think about making gifts for people who have Alzheimer's disease remember that some are starting to struggle with the effects as early as age 40 years. Knitting and crocheting can help provide comfort to those suffering with Alzheimer's but so too can encouraging people to learn to knit and crochet. Intellectual stimulation and social engagement are 2 of the things that help knock back Alzheimer's progression according to this study. Aging isn't easy, period. Aging with Alzheimer's can be pretty scary. Learning to do needle crafts or picking up those needles again can really add to the quality of life.
My own story. My grandmother on my dad's side was the reason I decided to pick up a crochet hook. Both my grandmothers and my aunts tried their best to teach me fiber arts. I am a dyslexic so the skill was a little tricky for me as a kid but I remembered what I was taught. I wanted to make my grandmother a wheelchair blanket. Granted, it was pretty wonky but I knew it would keep her warm. Then Alzheimer's struck my mom's family. My Aunt Velma, also instrumental in letting me play with yarn, developed Alzheimer's disease. As a child I had spent many long days with her at her home and cottage by the lake. When Alzheimer's Disease crept in to her life also, it was quite a blow to me, However, it was years from her diagnosis until her death because of early detection and treatment. She was able to live at home for quite a while. By the time Aunt Velma was placed in a nursing home I was a fairly accomplished knitter so I knit her a throw in her very favorite color. (yellow) Aunt Velma, for a moment, remembered who I was when she was given the throw I made. She said Velynda made this (Velynda is my given name). Naturally it was a poignant moment for me to realize that my work was associated with my name in her mind. One by one my mother's sisters developed Alzheimer's Disease. Each has passed on now. (Mercifully my mom, who briefly participated in a study at the Cleveland Clinic learned that she was not affected by Alzheimer's. She is in her 80's at the time of writing and can still run circles around me.)
Many if not all of my fiber arts friends actively seek out ways to bring comfort to others through their talents. Believe me, despite the naysayers, those talents are deeply appreciated. In that light I want to just share a little bit about a wonderful organization that is providing hand knit and crochet lap blankets and shawls for people with Alzheimer's Disease. Alice's Embrace (a 501-C3 organization) is providing comfort to those in Memory Care Units in California and Nevada. It's a fantastic outreach and they are looking for OUR help! There are multiple ways to offer your support to this organization check out their webpage and jump in. Their main focus is prayer shawls and lap blankets for those living in Memory Care Units. Whether you knit or crochet there are patterns available to you. Alice's Embrace does prefer that you use their patterns so that all pieces relatively the same (it makes for an easier when they go to deliver to the Memory Care Unit.) The patterns are beautiful and easy to follow! Each guaranteed to make your donation a piece of art. Alice's Embrace has created an FAQ page here to clear up questions you might have. Anyone can help by donating funds directly or using Amazon Smile to donate funds while also doing your shopping. Maybe you know a knitter or a crocheter who might be interested in helping... why not share the website?! Please remember to follow their requirements for yarn and pattern. It makes it so much easier for the volunteers.
Does your local care home have a Memory Care Unit? Do you think they would benefit from a little handmade love? Check with the volunteer coordinator about donating shawls or lap blankets. Based on the need perhaps you could partner with others in a church or library to create prayer shawls or lap blankets. Spread your passion for helping those with memory loss to others. I like to think one person can make a difference. There are many FREE patterns on Ravelry and other sites like Allfreecrochet. Check out these links for more patterns found on Ravelry. (Ravelry is great for finding specific patterns)
If you are looking for lap blanket patterns check out these very nice patterns and most are quite simple to work. These smallish blankets are always good conversation pieces and may help you grow your outreach to Memory Care Units.
Are you looking for more ways to give back? Check out this thoughtful list from DIY & Crafts. (remember to ASK the volunteer coordinator at the Memory Care Unit before gifting!)
I think my Gram and my Aunts would be thrilled to see knitters and crocheters putting their hooks and needles such great use. Please, if you choose to make items for your local Memory Care Unit have a chat with the coordinators to assure your items will be accepted. If you aren't sure about going out on your own... I encourage you to join with Alice's Embrace to help them in their work with Alzheimer's and dementia patients. It's such a rewarding experience. Thanks, as always for joining me today.
NOTE: Please see the comment from a representative of Alice's Embrace following this article! It is full of GREAT information. I really want to thank everyone for helping to spread the love. What I thought might be the most difficult blog to date has ended up being one filled with cooperation. It shows the camaraderie that is formed between those looking to do good. Many MANY thanks! 💜
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.