"Anything that may trigger a feeling or memory is worth a try" writes Amanda Franks, describing her efforts to support her Mother who is in the later stages of Early-Onset Alzheimer's disease.
Writing for the charity, Alzheimer's Research UK, Amanda describes how her latest gift of a Memory Blanket, personalised with large scale family photos, has had a profound and moving effect on her Mum.....
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. I’ve watched my mum fade by the day and anything that may trigger a feeling or memory is worth a try. When I came across the memory blankets sold through Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Memory Store I didn’t hesitate in ordering one.
I chose a variety of photos. I never quite know which decade Mum is in so I found a selection from across the family and across the ages; and off they went to be made into a blanket.
When it arrived I couldn’t have been more delighted. The quality was outstanding. A thick fleece, I chose a baby pink for the reverse. The pictures were crisp and of a size and colours that I hoped would grab Mum’s attention.
I took the blanket straight over to Mum at her care home. Mum was 58 when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While she is physically okay, at 65 she is now in the advanced stages of the disease. These days, photo albums and pictures rarely get any attention. I showed her the blanket and she smiled and nodded but following a pointing finger is no longer a natural response. As ever I talked through my latest gift and laid it out across the foot of her bed and carried on chatting. Verbal communication is almost gone but she began to stare at the blanket and smile. I can’t expect a thank you these days, but just seeing a glimmer of recognition and a feeling of warmth pass over her face made it all worthwhile.
A few days later I visited Mum. One of the carers came straight over and said that Mum had taken her by the hand and shown her a picture of me as a child on the blanket. The carer said that Mum pointed to the image and told her she had looked after that little girl. Apparently Mum was very determined to show her. This was a reaction she experienced alone in her room when a brief second of lucidity had allowed her to see and feel the love she had for her family.
The memory blanket is a wonderful item and is there in the moments of clarity. Everyone who visits mentions the blanket. I say she is wrapped in the love, warmth and most importantly the security of her family thanks to this simple blanket.
Alzheimer’s Research UK has joined forces with online retailer Bags of Love to enable people living with dementia or their loved ones to create personalised memory blankets using their chosen photos. Visitors to the site can order their memory blanket from ‘The Memory Store’, a purpose built shop for Alzheimer’s Research UK within the company’s main website, with 30% from each product sold donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK to fund pioneering research.
Article first published on Alzheimer's Research UK blog 12/11/15