Memory cushions help my mother-in-law remember names and faces

Danielle helps to support her mother-in-law, Sheila, who has dementia. When the family were unable to visit Sheila's care home during coronavirus, Danielle made a unique memory cushion with pictures of family members.

My name is Danielle and my story is about my mother-in-law, Sheila.

I entered the family almost seven years ago when I married Sheila's son, Paul. He is an only child and has a close relationship with his mother who brought him up by herself. Subsequently, Sheila married her husband, John, 30 years ago.

It was in the early part of 2017 that we noticed that she was very repetitive and forgetful. This progressed over the coming months until a diagnosis of dementia was given.

Sheila and John

Providing care at home

Over the past three and a half years, we have continued to care for Sheila and her husband.

Sheila is a type one diabetic who was in need of insulin twice a day. This element of day-to-day care was managed by her husband. Eventually, it was decided it was no longer safe for John to administer the insulin and the district nurses had to take over.

As Sheila's dementia progressed, she became more and more agitated and aggressive. She would sleep for very long periods, refuse to eat or take the insulin.

The whole situation was exacerbated by their home needing suitable adjustments. Due to their ages and Sheila's progressing illness, the changes needed at home were not something they could manage.

Moving to a care home

Ultimately we had to make the decision with much help from her social care team that it would be in her best interest to consider full-time residential care.

My own mother had been in residential care locally and subsequently passed away in a lovely care home. With this in mind, Sheila is now happily residing in the same care home and life is far better for her.

Danielle and Sheila

Sadly, during coronavirus, we have not been able to see Sheila other than through a window. This causes her much anguish and is not something we feel is of benefit for her.

With much sadness, the family visits throughout the pandemic have been few and very short in duration.

This is what brought me to my initial idea of the memory cushion. I was trying to think of a Mother's Day gift when she is so well catered for and her room can only hold so many ornaments and photo frames!

Making memory cushions

As a keen sewer, I decided on a cushion of appliqued houses complete with photos on fabric of each family member at the windows. This portrays who lives with who and in which house. The houses flap open to reveal our names.

Danielle's house cushion

Danielle's memory cushions display her family's names, faces, and who lives with who

The memory cushion is soft, portable and washable. It's pretty and a talking point for the caregivers. The cushion gives prompts for colour and numbers of windows etc again aiding memory function.

The names behind the houses give caregivers a prompt to talk about us when we cannot be there.

I thought that maybe this idea would be beneficial to other families facing the battle to keep names and faces alive in the memory of their fading relative.

The memory cushions I make have love in every stitch. If they help just a tiny bit then they've served their purpose.

Supporting a person with memory loss

Our factsheet explains ways to help a person with dementia manage their memory problems and stay independent for longer. 

Read online Download now
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11 comments

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Beautiful, warm, comforting gift for Sheila and beautifully made. Wish I had thought of making one for my Mum. X

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Does Danielle make these cushions for other people? It does not say in the article. I’m not a sewer and couldn’t even attempt one of these beautiful memory aid but would love to pay someone to make one.

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What a lovely pillow you made for your loved one. I wished I had thought of something like this when my parents were similar To your mother in law.

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I would love to have for my husband who was recently put in a memory home,this would be nice for him.

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Fabulous idea Danielle. My husband has Dementia, early stages but I would love to learn how to make the cushions as I live in Ireland.

I think you could have a new craft business if you have the time!
Best of luck

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What a great idea, im not at all crafty would you consider making these cushions to order?

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My mum 91 year old mum was diagnosed with late stage vascular dementia over a year although i knew a few years before.
I also would like to know if you would make a cushion for other people as my mum would absolutely love something like this

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This is such a lovely idea, I would love to make one for my mum but wouldn’t know where to start. Don’t suppose you would consider giving some instructions on how to do it?

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Such a pracrical, thoughtful and loving idea for a gift. Perhaps it would also be useful to use pieces of material and buttons taken from clothing no longer worn by family members, but the colours and patterns of which may also jog a happy memory or two for the person it is made for. 💝💝💝💝💝💝💝

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what a truly great idea for when words can't get through - patterns and buttons could really jog memory, and stroking them could be comforting.

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This is a super idea, my mum is in early stages but struggles to remember who belongs to who. She covers this by asking "how is everyone with you"
Is this something you would fo for others. As my sewing skills just stretch to replacing a button?

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