Appeal to help dementia patients receives ‘overwhelming’ response

Communications TeamNews

Karen Harrison and Liz Byrne holding some of the knitted donations

Hospital nurses say they’re “incredibly humbled” after an overwhelming response to an appeal to help their patients.

Just eight weeks ago, the Dementia Care Team at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust asked local knitters and craft groups to help make twiddlemuffs and fidget bears to give to older people in hospital.

The brightly coloured, woollen muffs are often adorned with bows, buttons, bells and zips, which older people can ‘twiddle’ with and keep their hands occupied. As well as the obvious benefit of keeping hands warm, for people with dementia, such items are also known to have a calming effect and help reduce boredom and anxiety.

Karen Harrison, Lead Dementia Matron for the Trust, says the response from people, near and far, has been nothing short of amazing.

“Since we launched our appeal for twiddlemuffs and fidget bears eight weeks ago, we’ve literally gone from having no supplies to hundreds of items ready to give out.

Terry and Dawn holding a knitted blanket

Members of the HU4 Sewing Group are among those to have knitted for the appeal

“Dementia is becoming such a prevalent issue in society now that many of us will either know someone with the disease or have had a relative or loved one experience it. To feel like you’re slowly losing someone you love to dementia can be heart-breaking, and that could be the reason why so many people have felt moved enough to help us with our appeal.

“We’ve had some beautiful pieces sent from local Knit & Natter Groups, but through word of mouth and social media, we’ve also received items from much further afield too, such as Wakefield, Pocklington, and even Knoydart on the west coast of Scotland.

“Dementia East Riding held a knitting competition among their group members, encouraging people to take part and see who could create the best twiddlemuff for us. We’ve also had a great response from hospital staff too; one staff member from our Employee Service Centre doesn’t knit but crochets, and has offered to make us a crochet prototype to look at so he can help out too.

“We fully appreciate how much time and effort people have put in, and in the current financial climate we know that wool and materials wont’ be cheap either, so we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who’s knitted for us and who continues to send us muffs, bears and blankets. There are too many people to mention individually, but we’re trying to keep up by sending thank you cards to everyone who sends or drops off parcels, and we know our patients will just love the items they receive.”

Twiddlemuffs, fidget bears and blankets are in high demand across Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital, so some of the early donations have already made their way out to the hospitals’ patients. A batch has been sent to the Emergency Department to help calm and occupy older people with urgent care needs, and further batches have been sent to Wards 15 and 20 at Castle Hill Hospital for use by their inpatients with dementia.

Karen adds:

“Like many other health conditions, as a community and a society we’re starting to open up and to talk more about dementia and the impact it can have on individuals and families. Celebrities such as Barbara Windsor and Bruce Willis publicly revealing that they have dementia also helps to raise  awareness and promote understanding of what is very much a disease of the brain, not just an inevitable result of getting old.

“On behalf of my team, the ward teams and our patients, we’d like to say a huge thank you again to everyone who’s donated for their support and their generosity.”

For more information on dementia including sources of local support, visit or