Quilting for a Cause: PebbleCreek women create sensory mats for dementia patients

By Lauren Serrato

For some, quilting is a hobby that helps pass the time. However, for the women of the PebbleCreek Quilters, they use their quilting and sewing skills to make a difference in the West Valley.

The Goodyear group create sensory mats for those in need at Hospice of the Valley. Specifically, the quilts were made for dementia patients.

As dementia patients often spend hours sitting or lying down, many times they find themselves bored or anxious about the uncertainty of their environment or those around them. Studies have shown that dementia patients benefit from sensory interventions as an alternative to reduce their agitation.

“Sensory mats are designed to help reduce that agitation and to provide a sense of calm for people with dementia and those in the end stage of life,” says Patsy Wagner, head of the community service initiative with the PebbleCreek Quilters.

“They are often aggressive or frustrated because they can’t do a variety of basic things. Or they’re fearful. They’re fearful of what might happen to them or what the future will bring, or they’re just plain bored because their bodies don’t move like they used to move.”

The women assembled their fabrics and made nearly 40 fidget blankets for Hospice of the Valley patients.

The quilts are adorned with a variety of items, including empty thread spools, zippers, ribbons, buttons, lace, fringe, Velcro and bells. Each item was added to help activate and stimulate the patients’ ability to feel, move and listen.

“Ours are pretty cool. We created mats that are 22 by 22 so they sit on a person’s lap, and they put out a whole variety of colors and textures and different types of fabric. The mat itself was designed to help with the senses,” Wagner says.

The quilters were tickled about receiving a thank-you card from Hospice of the Valley. The quilts were also a hit with other members of the PebbleCreek community.

“We put our finished mats in our display window just because they’re a new product, and several of our residents came up and said something like, ‘My mom needs one of these.’ Everybody was just very curious about them when they were in the window. A lot of people ended up knowing somebody that needs something like this. It was really a very popular item,” Wagner says.

This isn’t the first time the PebbleCreek Quilters created for a cause.

“I think just about everybody in PebbleCreek feels that we’re very fortunate, and it’s really our responsibility as human beings to help out people who aren’t so fortunate. We feel that it’s our pleasure to help these people. And besides that, how many quilts can you use?” Wagner says with a laugh, joking she has run out of friends and family to gift quilts to.

For Wagner, she says a major reason she moved into PebbleCreek five years ago was to join the quilting group.

While she admits to loving the access she has to machines like the long arm, it’s the relationships she has within the group of women that has made all the difference.

“It’s the camaraderie. I mean, it’s just great to go up there to the Creative Arts Center, spend a couple of hours with other cultures and almost always learn something new,” Wagner says.

“It’s just amazing to sit and talk to people who have the same love that you have. It’s really wonderful.”