Handmade for Dementia North West & UK

Sharon Wallace is from Chester, Cheshire. She has been a professional singer for 34 years.

I sing in care homes around Chester and North Wales and had noticed that a few of the residents were quite anxious and fidgety, which was disappointing to see. My grandma had Alzheimer’s and now my beautiful mum and her sister both have Vascular Dementia.

I was introduced to the NHS Dementia Twiddle Mitt in March 2016 when I volunteered at The Hospice of The Good Shepherd in Chester. As a non-knitter, I decided that I would try to make one. That ONE has now taken me over…

The mitts were piling up, and I realised that if I started a small, local group on Facebook and a small knitting group (including a woman who knits with us and is living with dementia) we could make and donate more.

Within a few weeks of starting these groups, Kings College Hospital in London contacted me requesting our Twiddle Mitts. This was a surprise – London!!! It was then that I decided to change the name of the group from “Handmade for Dementia North West” to “& UK”.

The Facebook group member numbers were rising and we were busy making and donating our gratefully received items (they are also rigorously risk assessed – if it does not have a HFDNWUK label on it, then it has not passed the test).

One afternoon, we were discussing new ideas at our knitting group. By now, we were making female twiddle bags, lap mats, fidget boards for men and also providing comfort dolls. One of our ladies, Eileen Copeland, a retired District Nurse, said the words Cannula Sleeve and, my goodness, how those two words from four months ago have now taken over my life. In a good way, I hasten to add.

The cannula sleeve is such an easy concept, as it is essentially an extension of the Twiddle Mitt, with a ribbed or frill cuff.

We made approximately 10 sleeves and asked The Countess of Chester, our local hospital, if they would trial them for us. Then, one evening, I received a message from Dementia Nurse, Sue Stowe, at the Countess saying that the sleeves were a success and they were asking for more.

Since that first trial we have donated to Aintree University Hospital, Glan Clwyd, Wrexham Maelor, Mold Community Hospitals, North Wales, Monklands, Airdrie, Wishaw General, Hairmyres Hospitals, Victoria Kirkcaldy, Scotland, Macclesfield General and Queen Victoria Gateshead. The latter is where the fabulous Dr Catherine Kirkley, Older People’s Liaison Psychiatrist, resides and, without her recent ‘thank you’ tweet, I would still be struggling to get our idea out there.

I am so very grateful.

The following statement was received from the communications team at The Countess of Chester.

“We would like to thank Sharon and the other lovely volunteers at Handmade for Dementia NW & UK for all the hard work they put in voluntarily to supply us with their amazing knitted items. We were so proud to be their 1000th donation. The twiddle muffs and mats provide much needed stimulus for those patients in the Countess of Chester and Ellesmere Port hospitals who are affected by dementia. The items are very well made and quality tested which ensures they are safe for our patients to use. We are currently trialling cannula sleeves, but so far the response has been good. We look forward to continuing to work with Handmade for Dementia and are excited to see what our next donation has in store for us.”

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