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Melissa Vens making a fidget quilt with large sqaures of fabric in front of her
January 10, 2018

Nurse makes fidget quilts for patients

Melissa Vens is blurring the lines between her work life and personal life. In a good way.

This nurse works in the neurosurgery program on 7 West at Hamilton General Hospital. In her spare time, she is an avid quilter. When she discovered that some of her patients needed something to keep them occupied while on the unit, she decided to put her sewing skills to use.

“In our quality counsel, we had been discussing appropriate ways to keep patients busy when they have dementia or brain injury and are awaiting long term care,” Melissa says.

“I’m hoping this will take off”

A personal connection to the cause

She’s had family members with dementia, and learned about a program at the Alzheimer’s Society of Waterloo Wellington that provides touch quilts to people with dementia. The little blankets, also known as fidget quilts, are intended to busy the hands of people with memory loss or brain injury and help to occupy and soothe them. Melissa thought the quilts would be a perfect aid for some of the patients on her unit, but she was unable to find a similar program locally. So she decided to make her own.

Using her own materials and sewing machine, Melissa created a sample fidget quilt embellished with cord, lace, buttons and zippers. She showed the sample to the Hospital Elder Life Program and Infection Control, and they were both supportive of the initiative.

two nurses sit at sewing machines
A nurse holds up a half complete quilt with multi-coloured squaresReady, set, sew!

From there, she organized a sewing bee on her day off and invited other nurses to volunteer their time and learn the technique. They’ve started on a number of quilts and hope to build a supply that they can give out to appropriate patients. For health reasons, the quilts can’t be washed and redistributed. They are gifted to the patient to take with them when they leave the hospital.

Melissa is inspired by the early success of her initiative.

“We are really just beginning, and I’m hoping this will take off,” she says.

She has had great interest from fellow staff who want to give their time and is planning another quilting bee later this month.