Magazine article American Libraries

Community Fabric: Libraries Partner with Clubs to Create "Fidget Quilts" for Patrons with Dementia

Magazine article American Libraries

Community Fabric: Libraries Partner with Clubs to Create "Fidget Quilts" for Patrons with Dementia

Article excerpt

You've heard of fidget spinners. But what about fidget quilts? In 2015, David Kelsey, outreach services librarian at St. Charles (111.) Public Library (SCPL), attended a Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) program where he heard a presenter mention fidget quilts. These small lap quilts, which also sometimes come in the form of a wearable apron, are affixed with zippers, buttons, and other items that people can manipulate to help reduce nervous tension. The presenter was Glenna Godinsky, life enrichment liaison at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Illinois.

Godinsky says her library partnered with an area quilting club to create and donate them to patrons with memory loss and other cognitive issues.

By 2050, as many as 16 million Americans may be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Hadi Finerty, senior manager of education and outreach at the Joliet, Illinois, chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, says fidget quilts and aprons provide needed distraction, especially during "sundowning." Finerty explains: "A lot of times when the sun goes down, [people with dementia will] get more anxious and start to ask, 'When am I going home? When am I going home?'" When this happens, she says, "Fidget quilts redirect them to something different."

Tales, travels, sewing

Godinsky says her library's fidget quilt project was born out of an outreach program called Tales and Travels [see American Libraries, Jan./Feb. 2015, p. 54, and travtales). Led at the time by librarian Norma Copes, Tales and Travels engages seniors--many of whom are in assisted living or memory care facilities--by bringing several large picture books and fun facts about a specific country to share with residents.

While talking about another country one day, Copes noticed that she seemed to be losing her audience: People were exhibiting restless hands and wandering minds. Copes had heard of fidget quilts, and because she knew how to sew, she and her sewing group made several such quilts to have available for those who wanted them during the program.

When SCPL's Kelsey heard about this charitable initiative, he was immediately on board.

"I literally went back to work the next day and said, 'We are doing this,'" he says.

SCPL reaches about 250 seniors a month through its programming, and thanks to several recent events at which residents came together to create and stitch, about 50 fidget quilts have been donated to the library since summer 2017 to pass along to those in need.

"You may not realize you have made an impact with someone with Alzheimer's or dementia, but you definitely have," Kelsey says. …

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