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Days Go By With You: A Memorable Knitting Story

In memory of our friend, Ruth

About four years ago, my friend Ruth, one of True Care's True Bridge clients, started a knitting circle with three of her friends and their caregivers once a week in her apartment in Battery Park. Over the years, Ruth hosted the knitting circle and served snacks and drinks as the ladies knit for about 45 minutes. It was good company, with good music. The knitting circle became a social time for the ladies and a way for Ruth to showcase her strengths and share them with her friends. Ruth lived with Alzheimer’s Disease for about six years, and even though her cognitive memory was fading, her muscle and motor memory continued to flourish.

IMG_5129As the knitting circle continued, the ladies' care partners joined in, including Ruth's friend, Marie. Marie paired up with Ruth in 2017 and got along with her from the start. They shared many walks, meals, and activities during their time together five days a week. Each moment helped strengthen the bond between them. I had the privilege of documenting many of these moments. One of the most memorable (captured in the photo below) is when Ruth gave Marie this handmade Valentine’s Day card, which read, “Days go by with you!” IMG_5280

Before she worked with Ruth, Marie didn't know how to knit. Luckily, Ruth was happy to teach her how, and Marie was a quick learner. Together with Ruth's friends, they continued the knitting club and joined the knitting and crafting activities offered at her residence, where they knit bears for children, blankets for dogs, and scarves as gifts.

When the pandemic hit, knitting became a daily form of engagement. Marie and Ruth worked together on knitting masks and more bears since these items provided comfort. Ruth's passion for knitting and teaching continued until the summer of 2020 when she passed away. Ruth’s legacy and memory live as her beloved companion, Marie, continues to knit every day and teaches others the same way Ruth taught her. 

Ruths knitting needles

Custom-made knitting needles, from Jodie to Marie, in memory of their friend, Ruth

As a Certified Recreational Therapist who has been working with people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia for over 15 years, I have practiced and promoted expressive and creative art therapies such as knitting as a form of non-pharmacologic treatment, which can build connections and promising opportunities. Expressive arts therapies use the arts to ignite the creative process and facilitate growth and healing. The benefits display a positive effect on mood, behavior, function, cognition and provide outcomes that promote meaningful engagement that can enhance a person’s well-being and overall quality of life. 

Numerous research and evidence-based studies have shown that knitting can reduce stress, promote better health, and have significant psychological and social benefits. The repetitive action of knitting, crocheting, and needlework can positively impact one’s health and well-being when related to memory and staving off dementia. 

The sensory and rhythmic stimulation of knitting has specific health benefits that can include:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Improves hand-eye coordination
  • Fosters a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy 
  • Improves cardiovascular health

According to an article published in November of 2020 in the New York Times, if you google “Knitting” and “Pandemic” together, you will get about 23 million hits. The calming effect and enhancement of skills that allow you to complete a project can keep you going during these long, restless days.

Ruth and her best buddy, Nancy, were knitting weekly. A safe, social, and physically distanced activity.  

Our need to feel connected to something, or someone, we love is intensified by the pandemic. Finding creative and safe ways to stay connected continues each day for all of us. Ruth taught me there is joy throughout the journey with dementia. Her memory lives on each day in my work and has inspired other residents to pick up their knitting needles and begin again.

Posted by Jodie Berman, MS, CTRS in Alzheimer's & Dementia

Written by Jodie Berman, MS, CTRS Jodie Berman, MS, CTRS

Jodie Berman, MS, CTRS, is the Director of Programs and Engagement for True Care Home Care and True Bridge Memory Care. Jodie is a Certified Recreational Therapist who specializes in providing non-pharmacological, Montessori-inspired approaches to engage people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diagnoses; improving their quality of life through meaningful and creative forms of engagement.