Blanket project a circle of giving

By Darren Lum

Jan. 10 2017

Giving back this season by producing Busy Blankets will mean the world to local long-term care residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia and everyone they touch.

The design of these blankets also known as Alzheimer’s Activity Mats can feature a variety of tactile and auditory details to encourage and stimulate movement such as zippers stuffed animals and noise makers including pockets to place personal photos. The finished versions and sizes will vary according to the maker but the provided instructions specify one for wheelchair users.

The Haliburton Highlands Health Services’ volunteer co-ordinator Brigitte Gebauer said they will be an effective tool in stimulating or soothing people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and assorted other illnesses affecting the brain.

Gebauer said a lot of people with dementia are agitated and these blankets will help alleviate that.

“So if there is something they can fidget with or to play with it will help relieve that agitation. That is a huge thing” she said.

Gebauer said the goal is to have at least 50 blankets produced for the long-term care residents of Hyland Crest in Minden and Highland Wood in Haliburton as well as for the Adult Day Program. There is not a fixed deadline as this is an ongoing opportunity. Any extra blankets can be distributed to residents of Extendicare Haliburton and anyone else who could benefit she said.

They can improve the health of residents which also has the added benefit of improving relations between patients and caregivers.

“Having something like that relieves that anxiety I think that makes their lives better right there and it also makes the lives that work with them better” she said.

She said this type of volunteering not only can be performed on your own time according to your personal schedule but will be fulfilling.

Although the blankets can be produced individually she recommends volunteers meet in groups to create them which enriches the experience and allows the sharing of materials. Groups could comprise of a diverse range of people whether it’s grandchildren and grandparents or even school groups to enhance the production process. The younger set can learn how to sew and gain satisfaction from volunteering.

Gebauer got the idea from seeing the Busy Blankets on Facebook. Her mother who has Alzheimer’s was the inspiration for the search. It is the most common form of dementia and affects memory thinking and behaviour.

Gebauer said this will be an ongoing effort. Just before the holidays she put out an email blast to her contacts who were supportive and encouraging.

It’s worth noting she said these mats need to be sturdy since they will be required to endure washing in industrial washing machines.

The 10-page pdf file which includes the design and instruction is available through Gebauer.

For more questions and to obtain the instructions email her at or drop by her Haliburton Highlands Health Services office in Haliburton.

Making a blanket is an important gesture and will mean the world to everyone who has contact with the residents that will receive one.

“We all can be in these positions some day. These people have worked hard all their lives and they led interesting lives. They deserve the best that we can give them. So any help we can give them and give to people who are living in long-term care is a bonus” she said.

Please drop off completed blankets at Hyland Crest the Highland Wood activity department or with Brigitte Gebauer at the Community Support Services located at 7185 Gelert Road across from parking lot of the Haliburton hospital.