Deana Burris has fond memories of her childhood blanket. She remembers the color of it, the smell of it, and especially, the way it felt.
“My blanket was satin. I still remember it because it was soothing to me,” Burris, life enrichment campus director at Trinity Oaks, said. “Those are the kinds of feelings that fidget blankets can give to people.”
Once a month, a group of Trinity Oaks residents come together to admire each other’s colorful handywork on their fidget blankets. They call themselves the Fidget Gals, and they make the blankets to donate to their peers across campus and to Novant Health.
A fidget blanket is a lap-size quilt that provides sensory and tactile stimulation for the restless hands of someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, along with people who have ADD or an autism spectrum disability.
“A lot of our residents with dementia get anxious and they have other deficits, like their hearing, their sight, their mobility. So, whenever they have a fidget blanket that has different textures and things that can occupy their time, it soothes them,” Burris said. “They can have something in their lap to touch.”
Each fidget blanket is different. Some have bows to grab, and others have ribbons and pockets. Some of them have special messages on the back that say things like, “Made with love.” And some of them tell a story.
When Burris was approached by a representative from Novant about forming a volunteer group to make blankets, she knew they had come to the right place. Many of the residents have been sewing their entire lives.
“When it was explained to us, they had suggested we have different textures on the blankets so they can feel them,” Fidget Gal Beverly Basler said. “That’s why we have so many different things on it so it can all be stimulating to the recipient. Hopefully it does some good and helps them.”
The group has a closet of fabric, thread, trim, and anything else that could be used to make a blanket that has been donated by Trinity Oaks residents or purchased by members. Fidget Gal Ruth Goforth keeps the closet stocked to make sure members have what they need to make the blankets at home.
Lola Folss, one of the oldest members of the group at 94, says she prefers to make her blankets out of cotton and jean fabric. She said she’s made about 25 blankets since the group began.
“I make them with jean fabric because it’s so stable. So not only is it easier to sew, but it receives whatever you embellish it with and stays in place,” Folss said. “It makes it more secure.”
The Fidget Gals have already donated fidget blankets to Novant, Trinity Oaks health and rehab, and the Virginia Casey Center, which is the memory care center at Trinity Oaks. They plan to add Trinity Living Center to the list soon.