This is Why We Specially Source Dementia Engagement Items January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

By FIT Interactive

Recently I gave a presentation to family care partners of people living with dementia. I brought a number of FIT dementia engagement products to show as examples of how the items also enhance physical mobility and function. Play clay, for example, is satisfying to squeeze, shape, and mold, but it also is a great way to ‘exercise’ arms, hands, and fingers that may not get as much physical movement to keep them flexible and strong to do things such as button buttons and take the top off toothpaste. The pinching motion of picking up and positioning puzzle pieces is good fine motor physical movement of fingers and hands as is turning the pages of a book.

One daughter in the audience began almost grilling me about the items. “Why are the puzzle pieces so thick? Only children’s puzzles are that thick. Doesn’t the scented play clay make people want to eat it? The books seem too small.” After I explained why each item was designed that particular way, she broke into a smile and said, “I had no idea all that needs to be considered. I’m glad you’ve done the hard part so we can do the fun part.” I replied that it was our honor to do that part. We stand in awe at the hard work they do as loving caregivers.

Given this recent experience, I thought it might be helpful to share details about our expectations of FIT’s products and how they are selected. The dementia engagement products should promote feelings of success and fun, be easy and interesting to use, be durable and well made, not look childish, and be safe and non-toxic. We want there to be quality, affordable products in the marketplace that helped people stay connected by doing things together and having fun. Through extensive field testing over many years with individuals living with dementia and their family and paid care partners, we have accumulated a great deal of information about what is most useful and effective for them.

Since older fingers have difficulty picking up thin items, FIT’s products are thicker than standard items. The optimum thickness for items such as puzzle pieces and tiles is 3cc. This poses challenges in sourcing products. Commercially produced puzzles that thick, for instance, are mostly designed for children with childish images, pictures, and colors. For people living with dementia, we know it is helpful for the puzzle picture to have a lot of color definition to use as cues to piece the picture together. Pictures with lots of blue sky, green grass, or large single colored objects are difficult to work on because there are many same color puzzle pieces. This is another challenge with commercially produced puzzles. As a result, FIT ended up developing and manufacturing its own puzzles and tiles so they would be just right.

There are many wonderful and interesting sports, travel, and animal picture books published. Through testing we found the books were too big and heavy, had too much text and not enough photos, or had too many pages and became overwhelming. The best option again was to develop and publish our own books that were the optimal size, weight, number of pages, and photos to text ratio.

People who have dementia may put items in their mouth, so we prudently select items that are not too small to become choke hazards. Also we are vigilant about sourcing products that are made with non-toxic substances. As much as possible we select products that are eco-friendly and organic. FIT’s lavender lotion, for example, is organically produced. All of the Fitness bands and balls are also specially sourced and non-toxic. The ingredients in FIT’s play clay are natural, safe, and edible if accidentally ingested.

A lot of attention goes into selecting items that not only are interesting, fun, and safe, but that also foster physical movement to help maintain function. The adage, “use it or lose it,” aptly applies to our muscles and tendons. Muscles and tendons need movement and use to maintain flexibility and strength. Tossing the fringe ball in the FITNESS KIT and dancing and moving to the music in the MUSIC KIT are good for gross motor skills, and stretching the bands in the ART & DESIGN KIT on the geoboard to create interesting designs and shaping, squeezing, and rolling play clay are helpful for fine motor skills.

As you see, much care and attention goes into selecting each FIT dementia engagement item. We treat every customer as if they were our own family member. A great deal of time, money and effort goes into researching, sourcing, and testing products for safety, durability, ease of use, fostering physical movement and range of motion, and wide appeal and interest.

We are honored to be able to help enhance the lives of people living with dementia and for those who care about them through using engagement products that foster and promote connecting together and having fun.