The staff of a unit at Royal University Hospital are volunteering their time to help make their patients more comfortable during their stay.
Five staff members of Unit 5300, a 34-bed orthopedic trauma unit, are making "sensory blankets" for their patients with cognitive impairment.
Staff members of Unit 5300 making sensory blankets includes (from left) Lynn Kometscher, Lina Weeks, Lisa Fletcher, Rita Rudnisky, and Melissa Bishop. Missing from photo: Eleanor Barnes.
About 155 people are admitted to this unit every month – about 29 per cent of those patients are over the age of 80. Patients in this age group typically stay longer in hospital than other patients – about a week – and often have more than one health complication, including forms of cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia and Delirium.
"Surgery and hospitalization can be stressful on anyone, but it has an even higher impact on those individuals who often function best with a familiar environment," explains Bev Schaff, Manager of Nursing for 5300. "Our staff members are very sensitive to the stress a hospitalization causes anyone, but especially for those with cognitive impairments."
The busy hands of patients with cognitive impairments, stressed by the change in environment and routine because of their hospitalization, were often pulling out their lines – IVs, oxygen or catheter tubing, all very necessary to their treatment – without realizing what they were doing. Unit staff were constantly looking for ways to keep hands busy and minds focused.
With the help of Pinterest, a staff member came up with the idea of creating these colourful blankets with various textures, buttons, zippers, pockets and strings to keep hands busy.
"We wanted to give them something safe to keep them occupied and hopefully make their stay in hospital less traumatic for them," says Lina Weeks, the nurse who spearheaded the project. "When I saw examples of busy blankets on Pinterest I thought 'I can make that!' so I made a sample, got approval and recruited some coworkers to help me with the busy blanket project. Hopefully our efforts will make life easier for the patients and the staff."
The sensory blankets are meant to provide purpose and familiarity for the patients, hopefully leading to a decrease in anxiety and restless behaviours, including pulling out their lines.
So far, one large blanket, and two more small puzzle blankets made by staff are in circulation on the unit.
"I'm excited to try the sensory blankets," says nurse Kaylin Loster, who works on the unit. "After working with patients with cognitive impairments for the past eight years, I know they are going to help keep them safe and comfortable. If they are able to keep their hands occupied, they will be less likely to pull out their IVs and feeding tubes, which means less trauma and distress for them."
Staff hope to make more to make eight blankets more in June – four for their own unit, and potentially four for another.