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Sunshine Residents Relish Opportunities to Uncover Their Craftiness

Sunshine Residents Relish Opportunities to Uncover Their Craftiness

Relish-Opportunities-to-Uncover

March is Craft Month at Sunshine Retirement communities. No, that doesn’t mean everyone sits around sipping trendy beers while discussing hand-made furniture, jewelry, soap or what have you. Craft Month is not necessarily about things that are made with a high level of skill or proficiency. It’s simply about getting together to work on projects with an intended purpose and outcome.

“I love crafts!” says Merry Beth Grant, Assisted Living Life Enrichment Director (LED) at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana. “We celebrate Craft Month every month. The goal is to get as many residents involved as possible in a project that gives them a sense of pride in what they have created.”

The Verandah has a whole room dedicated to crafts that is shared by Assisted Living and Independent Living residents. Merry Beth knows the importance of doing crafts goes a lot deeper than just making another cozy to keep the tea warm.

“Making crafts helps with hand and eye coordination, cognitive abilities and concentration,” she says. “It brings people together. We share stories, we laugh and we help each other. I also like to give residents responsibilities in helping me set up for our projects, which gives them a sense of purpose.”

Merry Beth credits her infectious approach with attracting residents who aren’t typically interested in craft making.

“I believe that if you’re enthusiastic about doing something, the enthusiasm catches on," she claims. “The other thing is, I try to come up with crafts that they’ll want to give as gifts. They love gifting their projects to friends and family members.”
      
Merry Petroski, LED at Windsor Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care in Beachwood, Ohio, also sees great benefits in making crafts with her memory-challenged residents.

“A person with dementia has lost the ability to order their day,” she says. “Going from task to task, taking time to relax, hydrate, eat and get activities of daily living accomplished gets increasingly difficult, if not possible for them.

Merry finds that joining in on craft projects keeps their minds focused, which may head off negative behaviors that are often the result of boredom and confusion. These creative endeavors can also help them to center themselves.

“Each project can orient them to time and place,” says Merry. “By making Christmas decorations or coloring Easter eggs, we offer gentle reminders to structure our residents’ days. People love familiar rituals, and most will also try new projects with a little prodding and lots of positive feedback.”

While clutter and complicated directions can create serious challenges for people with dementia, Merry finds that any craft project can be completed as long as it is broken down into enough simple steps. What might take an afternoon for the average person could take three or four afternoons for someone with dementia. They no longer have the ability to multi-task and remember long sets of instructions. So one session may be devoted to cutting things out, another to gluing, painting, etc., until the project is done. According to Merry:

“People who suffer from the effects of dementia are no different than the rest of us, in that they love to receive praise and feel pride in creating something with their own hands.” 

Positive reinforcement and a little common sense have also proved helpful in getting men to enjoy crafts as much as women.

“Men seem to enjoy tasks that involve building,” said Merry. “If a man seems reticent to participate in crafts, I ask for help in building a dollhouse for a child or offer him a painting job on a premade birdhouse.”

“Finding a craft that appeals to everyone is tricky,” concurs Cindy Smith, LED at Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “Wood-working crafts for men and projects that are fun and dramatic seem to go over well.”

Country Club Village has a space that is stocked with various tools and supplies, so residents can enjoy crafts and explore their own creativity at their leisure. But, of course, they’re also encouraged to participate in numerous organized craft projects. Like Cindy, most Sunshine LEDs have discovered that using the internet and social media are great ways to find fresh craft ideas for everyone to enjoy.

“I love having Pinterest!” says Brandi Limbaugh, LED at Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia.
“You can find things on there and on Facebook that you wouldn’t think of in a million years. I also turn to YouTube to find videos that help you figure out how to do something you didn’t know how to do.”

Lately, the internet helped Creekside Pines residents create St. Patrick’s Day wreaths that they will be able to hang on their doors for years to come. And currently, Sunshine’s own network of LEDs is inspiring each other with a variety of “green” crafts – the kind that will be perfect for Earth Day celebrations next month.

So, while the world continues to appreciate the special qualities of hand-crafted beverages, foods, soaps, etc., Sunshine residents will go right on enjoying the endless benefits of hand-crafting their own holiday wreaths, cell phone holders and birdhouses.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2019.

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