Knitted hand warmers comfort residents with dementia

Hanna has knitted and cross-stitched her whole life, and being on dialysis for the past 17 years hasn’t hindered her love for giving back to the community. She spends anywhere from two to 10 hours knitting and cross-stitching every day, so when Jenny Kwan, Recreation Therapy Aide, showed her an article about knitted hand warmers for dementia residents, she was eager to start making them.

Evie and Jenny admire some of the hand warmers Hanna has made for residents with dementia.

“In the past I’ve knitted things like blankets and given them to charity or people in need,” Hanna says. “I hope the hand warmers will help keep the residents’ hands warm.”

But the hand warmers do much more than that. They have buttons and beads sewn on to them to add texture, and have been shown to soothe people with dementia, who often become less verbal in the mid to late stages of dementia. These people may start to fidget because they become agitated or bored, or may get frustrated because they can’t communicate with people around them. But sensory stimulation such as colours and textures can help calm them.

Jean Phillips, a resident at St. Joseph's Auxiliary Hospital, says she enjoys having warm hands thanks to the special hand warmer she received.

“The sense of touch can be very soothing for someone with dementia,” Evie says. “The different textures on the hand warmers give them a sense of security with something to hold on to. It also gives them something to do with their hands.”

Jean Phillips, one of the residents who have received a hand warmer, says she has found it very comforting.

“It’s nice for the hands, especially in the cold winter months,” Jean says.

Caregiver Amina Behi, who often spends time with Jean, says she’s noticed other positive results of the hand warmer. “The hand warmer is a nice distraction for her,” Amina says. “It helps a lot with her fidgeting, and I’ve even seen her sleeping while wearing the hand warmer.”

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