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Communities helping communities: handmade fidget blankets going to seniors homes around the territory

For Bozena Robertson, crocheting is kind of like baking it turns out best when made with love. 

Communities around the territory are feeling the warmth of that secret ingredient as Robertson donates handmade fidget blankets. 

Fidget blankets, sometimes called fidget quilts or activity blankets, are blankets with ribbons, zippers, buttons and other features to keep the user’s hands busy. The tactile therapy is often used as a means to help soothe those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's by busying restless hands.

Bozena Robertson, left, and Christine Aubrey, right, have been donating crocheted fidget blankets to seniors homes around the territory with donated wool.
Photo provided by Bozena Robertson.

“You pour your intentions and energies into it and the person feels it,” Robertson says.

Robertson, a Fort Smith resident, has now donated blankets to the Northern Lights Special Care Home in Fort Smith, Aven Manor in Yellowknife, and to a number of individuals who have asked Robertson for the blankets directly. Next, she wants to bring the blankets to Hay River.

The idea was born when Robertson had a crocheted blanket that she didn’t know what to do with, and then a friend suggested she turn it into an activity blanket. After that, Robertson put a call out on Facebook for wool donations and has since made close to 20 blankets with the help of friend Christine Aubrey. 

“If we keep getting the wool, we’ll keep making them,” Robertson says. “It feels good to make something that other people get use from.”

Daryl Dolynny, CEO of Aven Manor, says, “It’s communities helping communities.”

“In a time of pandemics, I think that it is definitely worth noting,” he says.

A fidget blanket, or activity quilt, that Bozena Robertson made with donated wool.
photo courtesy of Bozena Robertson

Tactile therapy is known to help with short and long-term memory, Dolynny explains. As the centre can’t accept visitors during the pandemic, even popular pet therapy has been put on hold. As such, the blankets are an especially welcome gift. 

“We feel that this is going to be a nice addition to our wellness program until such time as we're able to get our full program with pets back on track,” Dolynny says.

He adds that they do have other forms of tactile therapy in-house, but “every time we can add a different tool, or a different process or procedure involved with helping with short-term and long-term memory, of course we're going to be doing so.”

Laurie Grande, a regional lead for the AB and NWT Alzheimer's Society, says that the quilts are expensive to buy “so it's wonderful that people in the community are able to put some effort into making them for us because it's probably not something we would be able to offer.”

Grande helps organizations, families, and individuals to better plan for the future when someone has been diagnosed with dementia. She says they often have the quilts in the Alzheimer’s Society office so that patients can have “familiar items” to keep on their lap and fiddle with. 

“It's really important to remember that later on in the disease it’s more difficult for people to engage in the ways that they have always engaged,” she says. “This is a way that they can be engaged in, be successful in, what they're doing.”

Robertson says it takes her about six hours to crochet the blanket, and another two hours to add on the “activities.”

Robertson is a massage therapist, but as she’s had to put her practice in Fort Smith on hiatus in recent months, making blankets has been a way of keeping her own hands busy as well.  

Dolynny says the work that goes into them is not lost on him. 

“We take these things very seriously to heart,” he says. “The fact that individuals are taking the time to consider our facility and consider the people in our care I think that’s pretty warm and special.” 

“It’s days like this when you look at yourself and go, it’s great to be a Northerner.”

Bozena Roberts, right, donates crocheted fidget blankets to Aven Manor, which are gladly received by Daryl Dolynny, CEO of the facility.
photo courtesy of Daryl Dolynny