Bringing calm to those with dementia

Jan. 11, 2016

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Murals and knitted hand muffs are two new initiatives at St. Joseph’s Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care that are soothing residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The murals are disguising elevator doors to help keep residents with dementia safe by preventing them from trying to leave their care unit.   “Exit seeking causes agitated behaviour in some residents with dementia,” explains Mount Hope Director Janet Groen. “In turn, this agitation can lead to falls or other injuries. Using design interventions like the murals is a kind and gentle strategy to prevent exit seeking.” 

Studies show that disguising exit points leads to less agitation and depression in some residents with dementia who consistently seek exits. When they see a door, they want to see what’s behind it so wait for a chance to get out.  When they can’t get out, they feel sad and frustrated.  Masking the exits with murals leads to a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere because residents don’t realize the elevators are exits so just enjoy the painting and stop trying to find a way out. The murals were funded by Behavioural Supports Ontario.

Another unique initiative Mount Hope staff and volunteers are pursuing in their leisure time is knitting hand muffs (cylinders that keep hands warm) to soothe and calm people with dementia. “We knit the muffs with soft, chunky or novelty yarns for varying textures, then attach objects like buttons, strings and beads,” explains Noelle Tangredi, from organizational development and learning services. 

The concept behind the hand muffs is that people with dementia like to have something to keep their hands occupied. When they feel restless, the hand muffs reduce anxiety by providing visual, tactile and sensory stimulation.

The hand muffs are showing remarkable results for some residents including calming those who talk loudly and repetitively, and helping those who love to tinker to focus their energy. 

“The hand muffs are an easy project for new knitters,” says Tangredi.  “We would love it if others in the community want to make hand muffs.” The pattern can be found here and in partnership with the Alzheimer Society the completed hand muffs can be dropped off between 8:30 and 4:30 weekdays to:

  • Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex, 435 Windermere Road, London
  • Alzheimer Outreach Services of McCormick Home, 2022 Kains Road, London  

Janet Groen and Noelle Tangredi will be available for interviews Tuesday, January 12 at 12 pm, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, 21 Grosvenor Street, London.  Please contact Anne Kay (see below) to arrange an interview at this time.  

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For more information and to arrange interviews:

Anne Kay, Communication and Public Affairs 
Pager: 519-649-9238, phone: 519-646-6100, ext. 42470

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London 

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community-based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care. For more information, visit

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