Seniors with Dementia and Alzheimer’s often struggle with anxiety and restlessness, leading to what we call “busy/fidgety hands”. Oftentimes, we see our seniors in memory care showing the following signs: pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, rubbing hands together, twisting fingers, wringing hands, and generally keeping their hands in motion.
Here is a list of options to help reduce anxiety and to calm busy hands.
1. Fidget Blankets or Quilts
These blankets, aprons, or quilts assist with daily functioning tasks and help with keeping busy hands occupied to reduce anxiety and restlessness. The items are designed with a number of sensory objects to improve functional skills (i.e. a zipper and buttons). They come in multiple textures and surfaces for tactile stimulation and there are multiple hand activities for improved finger dexterity and improved eye-hand coordination
2. Sensory Toys
There are a number of toy-like calming items, such as fidget toys, lacing beads, therapy dolls, and companion pets that mimic cat or dog movements that can assist in providing comfort and bring calm to a senior with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
3. Household Chores
Providing seniors with Dementia, the opportunity to perform familiar tasks is another option for busy hands. This may include folding laundry, organizing paperwork, sorting and organizing a drawer of items, or even shuffling, stacking, or arranging a deck of cards with visual images that can also stimulate their interest.
4. DIY fidget box
You can even make your own fidget box or basket for your elderly loved one or person in your care. The box is portable and can be brought to them when they are in need of something to reduce anxiety and to calm restlessness. Simply fill and container with some inexpensive odds and ends you can find in your house, make quickly or buy at the dollar store. Gather things in a variety of colours and textures, like:
Things with zippers or velcro closures
Little toys that wind up
Stress balls for squeezing
Brightly coloured plastic springs (like a Slinky)
Mini stuffed animals
A row of buttons sewn firmly onto a ribbon
A piece of soft fleece or faux fur
Old keys on a keyring
No matter the object or method, the goal is to engage your loved one or person in your care with meaningful, purposeful and fun activities to occupy busy hands and help to provide a calm and relaxing environment.