It engages the patient’s mind, studies show
Crocheting and knitting, considered a hobby by many, is now being used by psychologists in senior care centres for the treatment of dementia.
Crocheting or knitting is a process in which you weave a yarn or thread by hooks in a certain pattern. These patterns can then be created into toys, clothes and phone covers.
“Dementia is a neurological disorder in which one loses cognitive functioning. This means they cannot remember things or people or reason a lot,” explained Dr Joy Desai, a neuro-psychiatrist at KEM Hospital, Mumbai.
Dr Desai also talked about the effectiveness of this therapy. “Yes, we call it crochet therapy in our centre. Therapy inherently is a treatment for physical/emotional well-being. This helps dementia patients in many ways.
“How exercising helps and improves your body physically, crocheting or any other kind of goal- directed activity helps and improves your brain,” he added.
According to a study published by the American Counseling Association, knitting or crocheting is helps older people struggling with onset dementia to improve memory. The study says that crocheting is basically making different patterns. It helps people with dementia in improving their memory.
Dr Deepa Patil, a psychiatrist, informed The Observer that it isn’t in the textbooks but several studies have shown that crocheting does help in memory building. “Dementia doesn’t affect your intellect; it affects your conscious and cognitive abilities. Crocheting engages your mind,” she said.
“Dementia is not curable, but one can always try exercises that can delay the process. There is no harm in it,” she added.
According to a survey published by British Journal of Occupational Therapy, knitting and crocheting has significant psychological and social benefits. It is also therapeutic.
Sannidhi Damle (name changed), 68, a dementia patient, informed The Observer: “The centre I am in started knitting as an exercise to build our memory. We do it five times a week.” She also spoke about how she used to knit sweaters after her retirement and never thought it would be useful as a means to treat her condition.
“While knitting clothes for my grandchildren, I never thought I’d do this… to treat my illness. But, again, I never thought I’d get dementia, so life truly does surprise you,” Damle added.
Niti Choudhary, Damle’s daughter, said she was fascinated to hear about the technique. “I was interested to know more about it and its credibility.” The doctors told her that medicines, memory exercises and this therapy together might help her mother rebuild her memory faster.
“There is no cure for dementia yet. But one always tries to help in memory building after this disease is detected. Crocheting is another exercise added to this (memory building),” Dr Desai explained.
Devadutta Ghosalkar, whose aunt has dementia, spoke about how crocheting helped his aunt with her anxiety issues. “My aunt was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, and then was diagnosed with anxiety a year ago. She is at home and knits as her psychiatrist asked her to. It benefits her anxiety issues along with dementia,” he said.
Ghosalkar said his aunt is still living in denial about her illness and thinks crocheting is for her own enjoyment as she always loved doing that.
A study by Anxiety Resource Center, Phoenix, precise hand movements and repetitive actions help a person cope with anxiety.
According to the 2011 census, 20 percent of people aged 80 and above in India suffer from some form of dementia.