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'A different sense'

Barb Hellyer making ‘touch quilts’ for Homestead Assisted Living’s memory-care unit

Barb Hellyer displays a "touch" quilt at Homestead Assisted Living in Osceola.
OST photo by AMY HANSEN Barb Hellyer displays a "touch" quilt at Homestead Assisted Living in Osceola.

A simple touch can go a long way — even with a quilt.

Barb Hellyer, 83, a resident at Homestead Assisted Living in Osceola, is making "touch quilts" for use in the assisted-living's new memory-care unit, which is currently being built. The unit focuses on patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.

"Touch," or sensory quilts, use squares of different fabrics throughout the quilts.

"The idea is that they (patients) can rub their hands across this … and they get a different sense or feel, and they are so helpful in doing just that — in helping those who fidget," Hellyer said.

The memory-care will have 12 patients and each will receive a "touch" quilt.

Hellyer said people with Alzheimer's and dementia become emotionally attached to the touch quilts.

"It just gives them a different texture as they run their hands across," said Casey Spoelstra with Homestead Assisted Living. "It's something they enjoy a lot of times. … It might trigger a memory of something."

As for the new memory-care unit, Spoelstra said construction is expected to be finished late this year or early 2014.

Helping out

If people want to help with the quilting project, donations of different fabric, as well as flannel for the back of the quilts, are being accepted. One example of fabric on the quilts is a dish towel.

Spoelstra said quilting packages are also available for people to work on. For more information, call 641-342-1036 and ask for Spoelstra.

Hellyer said she has received help from other residents at Homestead Assisted Living and HCI Care Services of South-Central Iowa.

Spoelstra said there are plans for assisted-living residents to have a sewing club on Thursdays to help with the quilts.

Between 12 and 15 quilts are currently being worked on, and Hellyer said more are expected to be finished by the time construction on the new wing is completed. Once each patient in the new unit has a "touch" quilt, the rest will be donated to other people affected by Alzheimer's and dementia.

Sewing pro

When asked about her history of quilting and sewing, Hellyer said she has been doing it "since forever."

"I grew up in a sewing-machine world," she said.

Hellyer has written five books on sewing and given lectures on the subject. One book is called "Sewing Magic" and another is "Tailoring Magic."

"I think it's really important we help those who need something in the 'touchy-feely,' and, particularly, in dementia or Alzheimer's (area)," Hellyer said. "They need something that's theirs — that they can feel different things."


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