Among the challenges facing both those who live with dementia, and their caregivers, is the loss of every day personal connections that we take for granted throughout our lives. Phoebe’s communities work every day with memory support residents to forge connections again and again, instilling life, emotion, love, and joy into the lives of our residents. We’re especially grateful when we can partner with other organizations to achieve that goal, often with unforeseen results.
In June, ARTZ Philadelphia—a nonprofit founded to support and celebrate people with dementia as members of the wider creative community—partnered with Phoebe Wyncote to bring some new connections to residents with dementia.
Sue Brown, an “ARTZ in the Making” facilitator for ARTZ Philadelphia, met with eight residents who had reached an advanced stage of dementia, characterized by tightly clenched hands that represented certain neurological changes as a result of the disease. Brown presented the residents with a sensory experience, using balls of yarn and knitted swatches to tease and caress tired hands open.
ARTZ Philadelphia shared the story last month in their newsletter, “Only Connect”:
Sue connected with each group member, stroking the cheeks of some with soft squares of knitted fabric, encouraging others to run their hands as best they could over balls of the soft yarns that she had also brought with her to stimulate their senses.
On Sue’s second visit to Phoebe [Wyncote], she came back with the same knitted squares and the hope that she could help the participants to liberate their cramped hands and awaken some of their memories by unravelling the knitting.
As a volunteer was helping one of the ladies to unravel her square and winding the yarn into a ball, the gentleman sitting next to the “unraveller” spontaneously reached for the ball of yarn. He had been sitting—staring and seemingly unresponsive—until just then.
Everyone in the room stopped to watch this extraordinary moment of connection. Had he helped his mother or his wife many years before wind unruly yarn into a neat ball? Was this seemingly minute physical interaction at the core of past connections with those he loved?
These small moments of engagement by some in the room seemed to jumpstart others. The doors that previously seemed locked against connection swung wide open. Just one week later, the same participants started to paint.
Life at Phoebe revolves around making these kinds of connections and opportunities for residents to have positive experiences. We were pleased to partner with ARTZ Philadelphia for this experience and welcome other groups and organizations that would like to work with our memory support residents in similar ways.
Find out more about how you can get involved. Visit Phoebe.org/Volunteer to learn about opportunities at Phoebe Wyncote and all of our communities.