Brenda Moore was helping her husband take care of his ailing mother when she noticed a peculiar habit.
Moore's mother-in-law, who had Alzheimer's, constantly picked at her face, a nervous tick of sorts. After some research, Moore learned that restless hands are an extremely common problem for people with dementia, leading to them to fidget with buttons, clothing, small objects, or whatever else is in reach.
In the case of Moore's mother-in-law, the fidgeting led to awful sores and scabs all over her face. Moore knew she had to help.
After lots of research on restless hands, Moore stumbled upon a strange solution she'd never heard of: twiddlemuffs.
They're short, knitted, tube-like creations (imagine a handwarmer made of thick yarn), and they're covered in buttons, ribbons, and other small doodads for people to, well, twiddle with.
Twiddlemuffs provide comfort and stimulation for folks with dementia. They also get rave reviews from dementia patients, their families, and health professionals alike because they actually work to calm people's hands. It doesn't hurt that they have an adorable name either.
Unfortunately, Moore never got the chance to knit her mother-in-law a twiddlemuff; she passed away last year at the age of 92. But this year, Moore, who has been knitting since she was 6 years old, challenged herself to create 200 muffs to donate to a local Alzheimer's society. She says they take about two days each to make. But she's up to the task.
All over the world, knitting groups, nursing homes, and lone wolfs like Moore are knitting thousands and thousands of twiddlemuffs for folks with dementia.
Thanks to DWP staff in Kirkcaldy for kind donation of twiddlemuffs for patients living with dementia -www.nhsfife.o… https://t.co/aQrBCsyAw6— NHS Fife (@NHS Fife) 1479324061
It's the biggest movement of the holiday season you've never heard of.
Fabulous delivery of #twiddlemuffs to #teamtrauma today!! Continue to be very well supported. https://t.co/OMiBqMSmc6— Emily Mulvaney (@Emily Mulvaney) 1480446471
And isn't it just fun to say twiddlemuffs over and over?
Big thanks to Rainbow Corner Knit and Natter Group for hand crafting all of these Twiddlemuffs! A huge help for peo… https://t.co/BzcQ9i51H5— Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (@Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council) 1480088411
Twiddlemuffs are far from a cure for dementia, of course. But anything that provides comfort and warmth to people going through a challenging time is worthwhile.
And the best news is that you can make your own twiddlemuffs at home, either to donate or to give as a gift to a loved one who could use it.
Moore explains, "Twiddlemuffs are made a bit like making a scarf. The first half of the muff is made by using textured wools of every kind for about 11 inches," she says. "You sew the ends together so that you have a long tube."
Then, it's time to decorate! Add on "buttons, zips, pom poms, ribbons, anything of a tactile nature that can be twiddled," she says. Just make sure it's securely attached for safety.
If you're interested, you can download a full set of instructions here.
And if knitting isn't your thing? No worries. Just spread the word to other people who might be able to help. With a word as fun to say as twiddlemuffs, that part should be easy.