Sewn with love: Prospective JA members make special blankets for patients

Published 12:10 am Sunday, March 5, 2017


NATCHEZ — Simple pieces of fabric, ribbons, buttons and zippers have been lovingly transformed into therapy for the mind and soul for area dementia patients.

Four prospective members of the Natchez Junior Auxiliary recently made and donated 14 fidget blankets to area nursing homes and the Behavioral Health Unit at Merit Health Natchez.

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The blankets offer cognitive therapy to senior patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Marc Taylor said.

Taylor, who is the program director of the unit, said the blankets give patients a tactile experience that captivates their attention.

“When (the patients) are not occupied and bored, they are more likely to be agitated  and act out,” Taylor said.

Provisional JA member Jenny Townsend, who is the business development  specialist for the unit, suggested the idea to the other prospective members for their required service project.

“I work with the geriatric population and have for years,” Townsend said. “The blankets are perfect for dementia patients.”

Townsend said she had seen the blankets used in places outside of Natchez.

“No one in Natchez had these blankets,” Townsend said. “The nursing homes didn’t have them and (Merit Health) didn’t have them.”

Having heard about the benefits of using the blankets, Townsend and her JA classmates, Laura Eidt, Jennifer Rosso and Ashley Carpenter, decided to get together and make the blankets themselves.

“We got together and had a sewing party,” Townsend said. “We collected buttons, excess fabrics, zippers and other items.”

Some of the materials were donated, Townsend said.

When the sewing party was finished, Townsend and her classmates created 14 blankets.

Wednesday, the prospective members delivered three blankets to each of the area’s four nursing homes and brought two blankets to Merit Health.

Townsend said the blankets are not a cure, but offer therapy that stimulates brain activity.

“The blankets help keeps (patients) alert and alive,” Townsend said.

“I wish they had things like that when my first mother-in-law had dementia,” JA provisional member Laura Edit said. “(The blankets would have been helpful.”

JA member Morgan Mizell said the group hopes to continue what this year’s provisional class has started as a regular JA project.

Taylor said he has seen commercially made fidget blankets before.

“This is the first time I have seen a homemade one,” Taylor said. “It is extra special that someone has taken the time to make these.”

“A labor of love is all you can call that,” BHU Nursing Director Alice Thorpe said.

Townsend said she is glad the blankets are now available in the area.

“A lot of residents in nursing homes may not have family or anybody to come see them,” Townsend said. “The blankets may be a little thing to some people. For those residents, it is everything to them.”