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New 'fidget' toolkit provides meaningful activity for those living with dementia

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A new “fidget” toolkit is improving the wellbeing of people living with dementia by helping them to tap into the psychological need to feel occupied and engaged, according to a leading research charity.

The Alzheimer’s Society and University of Central Lancashire have teamed up to fund five tactile wooden tools – the Fidget Widget toolkit.

“A lady with dementia immediately began to interact and engage with the Fidget Widgets – she was laughing with a big smile”

Carol Benabda

The wooden tools, manufactured by Active Minds, can help provide meaningful activity for those living with dementia, who may experience fidgeting behaviours and have difficulty with words, explained the charity.

The Fidget Widget is helping to improve the wellbeing of those living with the condition, by encouraging them to tap into their psychological need to feel occupied, engaged and included in an activity of their choice, the charity added.

Feedback from carers has suggested the new tool kit can also help people with dementia to feel calmer and more relaxed. Using touch, feel and repetitive movements, each specially designed widget uses a particular motion including: spin, slide, twist, turn and roll.

Each movement and motion that the widgets create are intended to be unrecognisable which removes any need to rely on memory or words to use them.

The tools allow users to become creative, while playing and interacting with the tools as they wish, with no right or wrong way of using them, the charity added.

Carol Benabda, a support worker who has worked with people affected by dementia who have used the toolkit, said: “A lady with dementia immediately began to interact and engage with the Fidget Widgets – she was laughing with a big smile on her face and spent a long time exploring the tools.

“The family of a lady told us that, when they collected her from the day centre at the end of the day, often she was cross but when she had spent some time using the tool she was different. She was happy and it lasted throughout the evening,” she added.

The idea was developed by industry experts, Judith Bower, Alzheimer’s Society dementia adviser, and Jane Souyave, senior graphic design lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.

The experts explained that, after speaking to numerous carers where fidgeting and repetitive movement was often the subject of conversation, they realised that there was a gap in the care market.

“The Fidget Widget toolkit addresses an unmet need for people with fidgeting behaviours”

Fiona Carragher

Judith Bower, said: “Carers often described fidgeting as a negative and disruptive behaviour. We wanted to create something that would tackle this idea, while, at the same time, creating something engaging that people with dementia could benefit from.”

The creative duo applied to both Alzheimer’s Society’s and the university’s Innovation funding schemes, which support innovative research that could better help people with dementia live better.

With support and advice from the charity, the tools were tested by the duo in day centres, care homes and in people’s homes over the course of two years.

Results found that both men and women engaged with the tools equally, and that families were keen to be involved in using it with their loved ones.

Fiona Carragher, chief policy and research officer at the society, said: “The Fidget Widget toolkit addresses an unmet need for people with fidgeting behaviours, a group which can be overlooked or labelled ‘difficult to manage’.”

“Dementia is a devastating condition, and while our funded researchers are hard at work to find a cure, it’s great to see the brilliant ideas that we have helped make a reality, being employed to help people with dementia right now,” she added.

The full Fidget Widget Toolkit is available at alzheimers.org.uk/shop priced at £59.99 for the complete kit of five tools, or you can buy each tool for £12.98 each.

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Source: Alzheimer’s Society

Alzheimer’s Society Fidget Widget

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