Knitters needed to unite against dementia and make Dementia Cannula Sleeves

Handmade for Dementia aims to reduce the number of people with dementia requiring recannulation. Are you a knitter? You could make Dementia Cannula Sleeves.

People with dementia often find fiddling with material a helpful way to relieve feelings of anxiety. ‘Twiddling’ can be incorporated into specially-made activity blankets, cushions, aprons, toys, muffs and mitts.

We speak with Sharon Holdstock who founded Handmade for Dementia. Through this initiative, the group is helping to reduce the anxiety of people affected by dementia in hospital with the use of their newly devised Dementia Cannula Sleeves.

Now, Sharon seeks more volunteers to join her national campaign to help knit Dementia Cannula Sleeves for local hospitals.

Handmade for Dementia group

Sharon, pictured third from the left, with NHS staff and friends proudly modelling Dementia Cannula Sleeves.

How I became interested in knitting for people with dementia

Two years ago, I was a day care volunteer at a hospice in Chester. It was there that another volunteer introduced me to a knitting pattern from the NHS.

I’m not a knitter, however the pattern from the NHS for Dementia Twiddle Mitts was so easy to make. I knitted a couple of them within a few days. Soon I realised these twiddle mitts, lap mats, boards and comfort dolls are really needed.

Dementia is prevalent in my family, and I wanted to see how many others could benefit from these items. I decided I would try and find people to help make them.

Creating a community of knitters

Initially, there were only about fifteen members knitting within Chester. They started to make twiddle mitts for all the care homes in their local area. They also made fidget lap mats, fidget aprons and new outfits for dolls to be given as comfort dolls to people affected by dementia.

Back in May 2016, I’d started a Facebook group dedicated to Handmade for Dementia. It is helpful for members who want to swap ideas, share new techniques, stay updated on the progress of donations and read the feedback we receive from hospitals.

We provide guidelines on how to make things safely for all of our members, including our out-of-area members via Facebook.

All items made in the Handmade for Dementia group are risk assessed (and labelled, if local to Chester) before being donated to the hospitals.

Our local knitting group in Chester meets every week and provides great social interaction for members who do not have a lot of company.

Seeking a new challenge

Once the demand for twiddle mitts slowed down, the group were trying to think of new items they could make.

In October 2017, it was knitter Eileen Copeland, a retired District Nurse, who suggested a knitted cannula sleeve. This would help ease the anxiety of an obtrusive cannula needle being inserted in the arm.

The cannula needle can also be costly, so the need for fewer to be used is something we wanted to help with.

A collection of 50 knitted cannula sleeves

50 Dementia Cannula Sleeves for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Wrexham Maelor A&E.

Our new national campaign: Dementia Cannula Sleeves

The Dementia Cannula Sleeve is a longer twiddle mitt with cuffs at each end that can be worn on any arm.

The sleeves are made from really bright colours and textured wool. They are also lined with an inner sleeve for added comfort.

Patients are less likely to pull out their cannula needle while twiddling with the items sewn on it. These items are only ever crocheted or knitted, and therefore are very safe.

By reducing the need to re-cannulate people affected by dementia, it saves money, time and the need for sedation in some cases.

What can be achieved with the sleeve

The Dementia Cannula Sleeves were trialled for two months at a Chester hospital towards the end of 2017. They were hailed a great success.

Our Facebook group has now grown to include over 3,000 members. There are students who find knitting a helpful way to relieve the stress of exams. We also have members who are bereaved, and other members that have joined the group who are in remission from cancer. They all say making our Dementia Cannula Sleeves is helping them, by helping others.

So far, Handmade for Dementia has made over 3,500 Dementia Cannula Sleeves and donated them to 55 hospitals in the UK since January 2018. We now own the copyright to the pattern that has saved the NHS thousands of pounds.

Not only that, this year Handmade for Dementia was nominated for a Dementia Friendly Award. It has recently been announced that we are a finalist for Trailbrazer of the year award.

Get involved

Support Handmade for Dementia

The group is looking for knitters who would like to help the campaign. Join them on Facebook and volunteer to knit these Dementia Cannula Sleeves for your local hospitals.

Facebook group Follow on Twitter

Please note, Handmade for Dementia can only support volunteers who wish to make the Dementia Cannula Sleeves via the group for hospitals of your choice. They are focused on this national campaign and are unable support volunteers hoping to make other twiddle items, such as mitts, aprons or boards.

 • Learn more about various restless behaviours - such as fidgeting, pacing and agitation – that people with dementia may develop.


Add a comment

Where can I buy one for my husband's birthday on 22 November? He has late stage drmentia/alzheimers and is in palliative care. This sounds like the perfect gift.

Hello Marian,

We recommend joining the dedicated Facebook group for Handmade for Dementia: Hopefully there is someone local to you who can help out with your husband's birthday gift.

Best of luck,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Hi there. Could you send information about where knitted muffs can be donated to. My neighbour is keen to help and wasn't sure if there are any hospitals in the north e.g. Leeds that accept them or whether it's direct to the Alzheimer's society?

Hi Katie,

We recommend joining the dedicated Facebook group for Handmade for Dementia: This will be the best place to ask questions about getting involved.

We hope this helps,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

I do loom knitting and would like to learn how to make these sleeves on a loom if I can. my wife has dementia so would like to make for her.

Can you post the pattern elsewhere than the private group on Facebook? Warm baby project patterns are freely available, can you do the same?

I don't have a Facebook account. How can I get the canula sleeve pattern?

Were can I find the pattern to knit canola sleeves ?

I’d like to knit canola sleeves, where can I obtain the pattern please?

Could someone email me a Dementia cannula sleeve pattern, I have knitted twiddle mitts. Many thanks

I am a Recovery nurse who works in a large Hospital and look after Patients who would benefit from these sleeves. A couple of us would like to knit some for our Theatre/Recovery area. So would like to have a copy of the pattern if possible. Thank you.

Which hospital please?
8110 have been made and donated to 85 hospitals since Jan 2018.

I would love to have a pattern from you to knit for dementia patients. Blankets, twiddle muffs or cannula sleeves would be something I could knit. Please let me know if I need to pay for these . Thank you.

22nd September, 2019 - my mum has sepsis & is ripping off her canula constantly - how can I quickly get a cannula knitted mit asap? Jackie

Jackie, are you on Facebook?
Please message me Sharon Wallace Married Holdstock asap.

Do the cannula sleeves have to be multicoloured to be effective.? Like he idea but not necessarily the multicoloured design of the product

David, we have had this conversation on Twitter and we have explained why they are multi coloured on there and you received comments from nhs staff and our knitters regarding why they are and need to be.

I’m a crocheter, is this only for knitters because I would love to help out.

We do have ladies who crochet twiddles and for stamped addressed envelope send to other knitters

Where can I find a catalog of all your products please

I am part of WI group who make the Twiddle muffs and I distribute them around my local care homes and local community hospitals . I would like to make some cannula sleeve for the larger hospital in the area ,where patients have cannulas in. But I can’t find a pattern .
Could you send me a link to one please? I think they are a great idea

Hi Sandra. That's great news! The Dementia Cannula Sleeve (DCS) pattern is only available through Handmade for Dementia's Facebook group at the moment. Their administrators need to risk assess every DCS to ensure it is safe.
If you have a Facebook account, please join the Handmade for Dementia group to make the Dementia Cannula Sleeves:
Thanks, again!
Alzheimer's Society Blog Team

Sorry about that, If the 3 questions are not answered we do not see the request.

Well, here's another knitter you've lost.

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