Volunteer-Crafted Twiddle Muffs and Fidget Blankets Keep VITAS Patients Engaged

Engaging, Tactile and Utilitarian 

The twiddle muff does exactly what its odd name implies: It’s a glove-like sleeve for the hands, similar to old-fashioned hand-warming muffs. Each colorful muff features crocheted-in knots and bunches of yarn that encourage patients to keep their hands and minds occupied by “twiddling away” with the muff’s sensory, whimsical features.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Anyone who has ever witnessed the agitated and nervous behavior of a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or seen nursing home residents in wheelchairs seemingly staring into space for hours on end:  Meet twiddle muffs–and meet 65-year-old Wanda, a VITAS Healthcare volunteer who makes them. 

The twiddle muff does exactly what its odd name implies: It’s a glove-like sleeve for the hands, similar to old-fashioned hand-warming muffs. Each colorful muff features crocheted-in knots and bunches of yarn that encourage patients to keep their hands and minds occupied by “twiddling away” with the muff’s sensory, whimsical features. 

“These twiddle muffs have tactile elements that keep our patients constantly engaged,” says the VITAS business manager who discovered them while visiting a local church’s knitting-crocheting group. “The first day I encountered them, I took them straight to my team, telling them how phenomenal they would be for all of our memory care patients.” 

‘Something to Make Them a Little Happier’ 

Wanda, the creative genius behind the muffs, has belonged to the crocheting group for 12 years.  

The average twiddle muff is about the size of an oversized glove that fits over a patient’s hand. A variety of elements and textures encourage touching, feeling, and twiddling, such as a string of different-sized knots, long thick appendages, or tightly packed balls or bumps. 

She also crochets tiny yarn animals that are donated to a pediatric hospital and VITAS hospice patients. Others in her volunteer group knit and crochet blankets, afghans, hats, mittens, and other comfort items for missions, crisis centers, veterans’ programs, children’s hospitals, shelters, and VITAS patients. 

“I really wanted to make the twiddle muffs to give patients and nursing home residents something to do, something to keep them busy and maybe make them a little happier,” Wanda says. “I try to make anything they can play with.” 

The quilted blankets feature a variety of interactive elements—zippers, beads, buttons, pockets, neckties, watches, and shoestrings—to encourage attention and manipulation. The blankets are wonderful tools for veterans struggling with dementia and neurological symptoms. 

Engaging, Tactile and Utilitarian 

Each muff, according to Wanda, takes about 12 hours to make: 8 hours for the glove-like shell, and another 3-4 hours for the doodads that she adds as she crochets for texture and interaction. 

Similar creativity is at work at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center where VITAS donated 10 volunteer-sewn “fidget blankets” for veteran patients. 

The quilted blankets feature a variety of interactive elements—zippers, beads, buttons, pockets, neckties, watches, and shoestrings—to encourage attention and manipulation. The blankets are wonderful tools for veterans struggling with dementia and neurological symptoms. 

‘So Many People You Can Help…’ 

Wanda learned to crochet at age 12 from her grandmother, and has been creating hats, scarves, gloves, animals—and yes, twiddle muffs—ever since. 

She’s thrilled that her creative pastime brings joy to others. 

“There are so many places and so many people you can help,” she says. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen Kashow is general manager for VITAS Healthcare in Brevard County. To learn more about fulfilling volunteer opportunities in hospice, call VITAS at 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com/Volunteer.

The twiddle muff does exactly what its odd name implies: It’s a glove-like sleeve for the hands, similar to old-fashioned hand-warming muffs.
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