One of the most difficult challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is the person’s withdraw from favorite activities. Christy Schmid faced this problem with long time family friend Bernice who at age 90 had outlived her husband, brother and even her son and started to become reclusive at the beginning stages of the disease.
Schmid began trying different approaches and materials to involve Bernice in activities that would improve the quality of her life. She realized Bernice didn’t need just any ‘childish busy work’ but rather something that gave her the internal feeling of completing a task. To meet Bernice’s needs, through research, and lots of trial and error, Schmid created The Busy Bee Lap Pad. Measuring 10 inches by 18 inches the pad is made of soft fleece and weighted with a five pound gel pack secured by Velco tabs.
Like many activity professionals and others caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Schmid faced common daily dilemmas such as how to distract Bernice from potentially dangerous decisions, such as the desire to drive her car, without causing further distress.
“Normally an adult individual will derive satisfaction from his or her job, reading, or writing, a good book, learning a new skill, and the list goes on. People with dementia, by the very nature of the condition, have lost the ability to do many of the things that once gave them enjoyment,” Schmid said.
“The person with Alzheimer’s disease has not lost her ability to enjoy. Or to feel pride and fulfillment in a job well done. This is often forgotten or overlooked by the people who care for people with dementia. Completing a puzzle can give as much joy as preparing a meal for company once did. Talking about the town he grew up in can be like writing an essay once was for a man with a memory disorder.”
“Weight is known to provide comfort for people who are restless,” Schmid said. “Feeling the weight of the pad on her lap and finding fun things to keep her hands busy is as comforting as creating a complex quilt once was for a woman with Alzheimer’s.”
The pad comes with five sensory stimulation activities: a piece of lambs’ wool, a liquid motion gel pack, a bean bag, a triangle, a tangle and moveable form beads. The cover is washable and the attachments can be removed.
The success of The Busy Bee Lap Pad lead Schmid to seek additional products for people with dementia and the result was her new company, Best Alzheimer’s Products.
It was critical to develop appropriate products that can decrease and often eliminate, at least temporarily, depression and the behavioral symptoms associated with dementia, like aggression, anger, or agitation. Too many products Schmid considered for Bernice were simply childish.
“Caregivers complained to us that those commonly available were too simple or juvenile for the adults in their care,” Schmid said. “Our primary criterion when searching for, creating, and selecting products is, ‘Will it improve the quality of life of one affected by dementia?’ Quality, value, and age-appropriateness are also important considerations, but our main concern is to give dignity and purpose to individuals impacted by this terrible syndrome.”
Selected products on the Best Alzheimer’s Products website include dolls and stuffed animals that also provide aromatherapy and heat and cold therapy. Books with large clear photos of places in America, animals, flowers and the ocean as well as matching games with images of famous artworks with the goal of invoking memories and conversations about familiar places. Schmid found that blocks in architecture shapes and simple painting kits as well as large piece puzzles work very well for people with cognitive decline.
Katie, from Ohio, who purchased the lap pad for her mother sent this note to the company, "Mothers Day is fast approaching and I had no clue what to get my mom. You see she is in the last stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Flowers were not gonna cut it and since she is out of state and on the other side of the country I can't even see her. Well I did some research and found this wonderful website called Best Alzheimer's Products and found just the perfect gift for my mom!! So I wanted to share!"
Best Alzheimer's Products is moving the bar in creating meaningful activities for elders.