Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Beading - Art Therapy for those with Alzheimer's

My mum's Dementia is now in advanced stages, however she still gets great joy from being creative. Sadly there are many activities that she can no longer manage on her own but I have found a lovely craft that she can do all by herself and that is beading! We use pony beads which have a 4mm hole and so are easy to thread onto twine, pipe cleaners and even shoe laces! 


My mum enjoys stringing the brightly coloured beads, shells and charms and makes beautiful strands that together we use to create window hangings.


The beads we use are readily available on ebay and Amazon and are relatively inexpensive. We buy 1,000 beads for £5 - £6 ... there are a great variety of different beads (and prices) so its important to shop around!





Mum's favourite beads are the flower ones ... especially forget-me-not beads.


Our favourite hangings are sun catchers which create lovely rainbows across the room. Our living room window is full of lots of mum's beautiful creations!



I tend to give mum twine to sting her beads on and find that by adding some PVA glue to the end, it makes it stiff enough to easily pass through the beads. 

We have also made some lovely flowers and butterflies using pipe-cleaners!


Keeping mum's hands busy lessens her anxiety so having meaningful activities like beading is very important. I make sure she has crafts and puzzles to do every day and its just lovely to see her proud of all her creations!


I hope our bead projects inspire and help others who are struggling to find a simple yet beautiful craft they can enjoy!


Saturday, 14 November 2020

Alternative Puzzle Ideas

Its been over two years since I have written a blog post ... so much has happened over this period ... and although I share our journey on my Creative Carer page, unfortunately I haven't had a chance to keep my blog posts up to date!

In December 2018 my stepdad passed away and we brought my mum into our home to care for her. Caring for someone at mum's stage of Dementia is a 24/7 job which my partner James and I share between us.

Sadly mum's Dementia has progressed over the last two years and sometimes she didn't know who we were so I designed a selection of named T shirts which we wear every day. These T shirts really help her. 

More than ever we engage mum in activities as keeping her busy lessens her anxiety. Over the years I have had to adapt our existing crafts and puzzles and have started new, easier ones for her so I wanted to share a couple of ideas that are currently working very well for us.


Numbered Jigsaw Puzzles

My mum has always been a jigsaw puzzler and before Dementia she enjoyed 1,000 piece puzzles. Soon after her diagnosis in 2012, I could see she was struggling with her jigsaws so we went down to 500 pieces ... then 100 piece puzzles. Because 100 piece puzzles are usually for children, I designed our own jigsaws using mum's favourite things as the subject ... cats and flowers! 

I also coloured the edges of the puzzle in different colours (red and yellow sides, blue at the top & green at the bottom) to help her. I would separate the edges from the inner pieces and keep them in separate bags to lessen the number of pieces she was working with at any one time. Often I designed puzzles in four sections so she could work on just a quarter of the puzzle at a time. 


But even with these puzzles and methods, the 100 pc jigsaws became too difficult for her and in 2018 we turned to 35 piece special Dementia puzzles. I'm sad to say she began to struggle with these too and we stopped jigsaws all together when they became too frustrating and upsetting for her.

In 2020 I had an idea to number the puzzle pieces ... first starting with 35 piece puzzles and numbering the front of the puzzle piece and where it sat on the board.

I soon realised if the number wasn't on the puzzle piece mum would instinctively turn it over to look for the number so I began numbering the backs which meant the picture wasn't defaced. Mum took to this numbering method immediately so I dug out her 100 piece puzzles from the loft and started numbering them too!

I use canvas painting boards that are the perfect size for 100 pc puzzles. If you are in the UK, you can find them at The Works. They are also available on Amazon (the boards are 16 inches x 20 inches).

To start with I glue down the edges on the board with PVA glue to create a fixed frame.

I then put the jigsaw together and lift each piece and draw round the shape where the piece sits. Finally, I number the back of each puzzle piece together with the place it sits on the board.

Yes it is a time consuming process making these!! 

But ... the benefits for mum (and James & I) are immense. Mum will happily puzzle again all by herself! This gives James & I a little respite to do some chores or just step away knowing mum is content with a jigsaw. 

Mum is so proud of herself and absolutely loves her puzzles again which is wonderful to see. I have made 6 different ones ... it takes her about 20 minutes to complete one 100 pc puzzle (actually she only has 66 pieces to place as the 34 edge pieces are glued to the board). Mum does these puzzles over and over ... they are like a new puzzle to her every time, bless her.

This is a puzzle I designed for mum years ago on PhotoBox (100 pcs). It has coloured edges and I designed it in 4 different sections ... but with the numbering method she manages to complete the whole puzzle on her own without the sections being separated. What a result!!

Video of mum in number-puzzle action!

Velcro Puzzles

This is another puzzle idea I recently came up with and they have been a big hit with mum! Even 'Mittens' seems to like them!

I use canvas painting boards, same as the ones I use for the numbered puzzles. 

I print off images (from Google images), laminate them and cut them out















I then draw round the shapes on the board. I number/name the shape on the board and put a sticker with the corresponding number on the back of the laminate shape


Finally I apply a small piece of velcro on each piece and on the board. This means the pieces don't slip off the board and we can tilt it up so mum doesn't have to bend over.


For this puzzle I coloured around the shapes with water colour crayons.


Water colour crayons can be brushed over with water to blend and soften the colours. 


Here is mum working on her velcro puzzle ...



And here is the finished puzzle!


I believe it is extremely important to provide those with memory problems meaningful activities that are pitched at the right level for their abilities.

Video of Mum in velcro-puzzle action!

I really hope these two alternative puzzle ideas will be helpful for others who are finding traditional jigsaws just too challenging to enjoy.


Friday, 16 February 2018

Cutting, sticking and gluing - Art Therapy for those with Alzheimers

My mum has always loved crafts ... she especially enjoys cutting out shapes and will happily spend hours on this activity as long as she has a template or pattern to follow! 


This activity helps maintain hand - eye coordination, fine motor skills and provides artistic stimulation. 


More and more I need to get my mum started and guide the process but the "Job Box" I have introduced really helps as when I am not there as it reminds her of things she can do.


I have modified and simplified the templates so the shapes are easy for her to cut out. Simple cats and flowers work well as they are her favourite subjects. 


I leave pretty patterned paper, a template, scissors and an example or a note in the "Job Box" ...


Almost always when I return I find her 'job' has been completed and there are many beautiful creations waiting for me :)


We use colourful stick on jewels ... my mum loves choosing the colours ... I make sure we have a good variety to encourage her artistic flair :) The sticky back on the jewels make them easy for mum to handle.

On good days my mum can draw on the cat faces ... on days that aren't so good she will leave them for me to complete but we always discuss and decide together the expression ... I always value her opinion.


I thank my mum for her 'work' and say how much time she has saved me so that she feels she has helped me. 

Everyone likes to feel appreciated and those with memory loss are no different ... in fact I believe it is even more important to praise my mum and make her feel useful.


We use all mum's beautiful creations on our 
hand-made cards.


She's very proud to put our names on the back of our cards! 


Our craft activities are always a joint effort :)


Things to remember about this activity ...
Be flexible. Don't force anything. Encourage and help when necessary. Never criticize. Always, always praise!


Monday, 23 October 2017

Making use of old Christmas cards - Art Therapy for those with Alzheimers

My mum has always saved old greetings cards ... she never throws anything she thinks she could use in her craft projects away! She has bags full of old Christmas cards from over the years!! She will cut out designs that she uses to glue onto blank cards to create what she calls a "remake"
If you haven't any old cards you could use a sheet of Christmas wrapping paper to cut out seasonal designs. Don't forget to save this year's cards for next year's projects!



You can see below how my mum has cut out a design with her pinking shears and she then glues it to a blank card to create a a special "remake"!



Mum also uses old cards to create gift tags ... some pinking shears around the edges and a hole punched in the corner with a piece of ribbon to finish off!


These "re-makes" and gift tags are very easy to create. I can leave old cards in mum's "Job Box" along with her pinking shears and the next day the box will be full of cut out designs that we can use on our cards or as tags 🌝
Cutting out designs is simple activity that my mum can manage on her own. Together we create the cards and tags.


Friends and family love to receive a hand made card 🌝




Meaningful activities like this give my mum such pleasure and purpose to her days. She is also very proud of her achievements which is so important!

Please also see my blog on Hand-Made cards and don't forget to visit my mum's Etsy Shop to see her beautiful scented Christmas wreaths and Poinsettias! 


Monday, 4 September 2017

Shell Craft - Art Therapy for those with Alzheimer's

Meaningful activities are incredibly important for those with Dementia. I have found that creating something beautiful makes my mum extremely happy and shell craft is a wonderful activity for her. Shells are such lovely things to paint and making them into a wind-chime is a wonderful activity that my mum can be very proud of!


We take plain sea shells and colour them with felt tip pens, metallic Pro Markers and glittery nail polish to create amazing patterned shells!!


I drill holes in the centre of the shells with a small drill bit. I find its best to drill outside as it creates quite a bit of dust!



turn the shells upside down and drill inside them. I rest the shells on an old towel. Limpets are surprisingly strong and I have cracked very few drilling this way!!


Its best to drill the shells before they are painted but sometimes my mum colours them before I get a chance to drill so I have drilled holes in many painted shells ... they just need a bit of touching up around the hole!



My mum absolutely loves colouring the shells!! She makes some very beautiful patterns!!
We then use clear nail varnish to seal the colour. 


We have also sprinkled glitter on the nail varnish & used nail varnish with glitter in it. There are so many ways to make them sparkle!


We then thread twine through the shells with a few beads in between.



I use thick string / twine and beads with large holes so that my mum is able to thread them.


My mum still has a great eye for colour and has created beautiful wind-chimes in a variety of colour ways.


She's never happier than when she is crafting! 


We used a large shell at the top of this wind-chime and tied the strings around the top of the shell. We glued the strings apart on the back.


For this wind-chime we used a piece of wood from the garden which I sprayed with gold paint. We simply tied the twine with the shells to the wood.


My mum loves making handmade gifts ... here is a wind-chime she made and gift wrapped for her volunteer driver :)


Its amazing how plain sea shells can be so simply transformed into something so very beautiful!

Please visit my mum's Etsy Shop to see her beautiful wind chimes & crepe paper flowers!