Photo credit: Pat McGrath for the Ottawa Citizen

Story originally published by the Ottawa Citizen

When two of the three founding members of the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild (OVQG) were diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the other members of the guild wanted to help.

Grace McNab, OVQG member, encountered something called touch quilts at a workshop in 2006. Touch quilts are textured lap quilts designed for individuals who need sensory stimulation – like those with Alzheimer's and dementia. According to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, "sensory stimulation can increase happiness, enjoyment and relaxation as well as lessen sadness and fear."

McNab, who volunteers at the nearby Civic Hospital, works closely with dementia patients and has seen first-hand the effect of touch quilts. The patients who come in to the hospital are often distressed, confused and do not know where they are. McNab and fellow guild members started making touch quilts for incoming patients, and know the quilts are in high-demand. These quilts help calm patients, decreasing the need for sedatives and keeping them from pulling at catheters and monitoring wires. The quilts have also been donated to geriatric and transitional care units and local nursing homes.

More information about how to make a touch quilt, including instructions and guidelines can be found here.