Engaging Minds and Hands

Craft group creates fidget aprons for patients 

By Krista Pfunder 

A sign posted in a local wine shop asking for donations of beads, buttons and baubles catches the eye. At the register inside Dunkirk Wine and Spirits in Calvert County, a posting addressed to crafters explains that items such as yarn, thread and zippers are needed to benefit Alzheimer’s patients.  

The store’s owner Elizabeth Joiner happily explains as she’s ringing up your purchases. “A group of us create fidget aprons and donate them to the nursing center for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” she says. 

Fidget aprons provide patients with a sensory activity, something to do with their hands. The aprons are especially helpful in engaging and stimulating the minds and fingers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease that destroys memory and other mental functions. 

The aprons—covered with zippers, buttons, beads, trinkets and charms —allow the wearer to engage in a variety of activities, all easily within reach. 

“The daily lives of dementia patients are filled with confusion and feelings of loneliness,” says Sue Brockman, who started the fidget apron group last year. “My mother had Alzheimer’s and our visits were always too short. She and other residents spent each day just looking for a smile and other small comforts.” 

Brockman found a study that showed one way to provide comfort to patients is through sensory activities. “I was inspired by a friend who had made a fidget apron for a neighbor,” she says. “I looked up types of sensory pieces… items like aprons and lap blankets with ribbons to tie, snaps, zippers, buttons and soft or fuzzy elements help activate the senses. The colors, themes, and artwork are also visually stimulating. Including bells and jewelry adds jingling sound.” 

Brockman decided to help Alzheimer’s patients at the Calvert County Nursing Center. 

“The nursing center was enthusiastic and said that they had 50 to 100 residents who potentially could benefit,” Brockman says. “I shared this concept with a few neighbors and close friends and found interested volunteers ready to begin this project.” 

The group has five core members, including Brockman and Joiner, and a few others contribute from time to time. Jean Hogue, Marga Gray, Max Brockman, Hanna Spencer, Dee Garris, Kris Wood, Sharon Serio, Linda Brandenburg, and Darlene Boerlage have contributed “We are keeping the group purposely small due to COVID restrictions and limited space and equipment,” Brockman says. 

The group began creating aprons and blankets in September after receiving donations of fabric, zippers, buttons and other craft items. 

“We made our first delivery to the nursing center in October,” Brockman says. “We have donated 13 aprons and 15 lap blankets to date. We are planning another delivery in February.” 

Once the aprons are delivered to the nursing center they are distributed to individual residents. “The activities director will match the item to a patient. Each piece includes a photo frame keychain so that the resident can add their photo,” says Brockman. 

The craft group reports that they still need help from the community. They are not able to welcome others to join their in-person gatherings but happily accept aprons and blankets created independently — and supplies. 

“Our primary needs include an additional sewing machine with button-hole and zipper-foot attachments, colorful fabric and fleece, thread, buttons, zippers, beads, some bracelets and other jewelry, small stuffed animals,” Brockman says.  

To help or donate — or to start your own group — contact Brockman at [email protected] or 301-919-3896. She says she will gladly provide you with a virtual fidget-making lesson.