on March 26, 2015 by test_editor in Coming Events, WEB-EXTRA content, Comments Off on Web-extra (March 26, 2015): Quilting with an impact: Touch Quilts in Ottawa.

Web-extra (March 26, 2015): Quilting with an impact: Touch Quilts in Ottawa.

Web-extra (March 26, 2015): Quilting with an impact: Touch Quilts in Ottawa.

By Janice Henderson, co-president of the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild.

What is a touch quilt?… And why do they matter? Touch Quilts are textured lap quilts designed for those who need sensory stimulation, especially those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Straightforward to make, these charity quilts have an incredible impact on quality of life. According to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, “sensory stimulation can increase happiness, enjoyment and relaxation as well as lessen sadness and fear”(1). Touch quilts can provide dementia patients with sensory stimulation, reducing unwanted behaviours without requiring sedatives or physical restraints.

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are an especially relevant issue to the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild (OVQG). Two of its three founding members are living with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Many other members are either currently caring for a loved one with dementia, or have friends or family with the disease.

One of the OVQG members passionate about touch quilts is Grace MacNab. She first encountered touch quilts in 2006 when she took an OVQG workshop given by Shirley Monkhouse. Shirley gave the workshop with the condition that the quilts would be given for free to charity and that the quilter not make money from them. In turn, Grace has continued this tradition in both making touch quilts and when giving workshops herself. Grace later realized how useful the quilts might be while volunteering at the Civic Hospital. Patients who have Alzheimer’s and come into the ER for other reasons are often confused and distressed. They do not know that they are in hospital, they may think they have been kidnapped. They cannot imagine why someone would stick a needle into their arm. Grace asked the nurses if the quilts would help. They would and she started donating a few and then asking Guild members to make the touch quilts. The OVQG quilts are in huge demand as staff find they help calm patients, decreasing the need for sedatives and keeping them from pulling at catheters and monitoring wires. They have also been requested for geriatric and transitional care units as well. Grace and other Guild members have also provided quilts to local nursing homes, including the Glebe Centre. “They really do help,” she says, “both to calm and, paradoxically, to stimulate”.

According to program facilitator Kirsten O’Brien at the Glebe Centre, touch quilts are successful. Residents can sit in a group activity because the quilts allow them to keep their hands occupied. For residents with a musical background, they can attend larger concert gatherings without reaching to touch co-residents or wheelchairs. Even residents who may be lower functioning will respond to the touch quilt, moving and feeling the various textiles. By keeping residents busy and occupied, touch quilts can even offset unwanted behaviours. “We are always in need [of more touch quilts] and very grateful”, says Susan Zorz of the Glebe Centre.

This year, to raise awareness and encourage quilters to make more touch quilts, OVQG is showcasing touch quilts as a new category during their “Festival of Quilts 2015” over Mother’s Day weekend. More information about how to make a touch quilt, including instructions and guidelines can be found at www.quirkyquilt.com . More information about OVQG and the “Festival of Quilts 2015” can be found on the web at www.ottawavalleyquiltersguild.org , on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ottawaquilts and on Twitter @ottawaquilts.

About the Author: Janice started quilting in grade 11 when she grew too big for her childhood quilt, and is now the co-president of the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild. She wishes that she had known about touch quilts during the twenty years that her grandmother lived with Alzheimer’s, but is eager to raise awareness about them at the upcoming “Festival of Quilts 2015” on Mother’s Day weekend at the RA Centre.

Blue themed quilt of many deep textures

Twenty Five Blues

Photo Caption: ‘Twenty Five Blues’ by Grace MacNab. Photo by Grace MacNab.

quilt of browns, yellows oranges and deep green.

A Tender Touch

Photo Caption: Touch Quilt made by Grace MacNab. Photo by Carol Gaudet, March 2015.

(1) Touch Quilt Project Details www.alzheimer.mb.ca/touchquiltproject/details.html Accessed March 13th, 2015.

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