A retired home economics teacher inspired to help others after visiting a loved one in hospital has turned her talent for sewing into a business creating items tailored to people with mobility issues, cancer patients, individuals with dementia, and others.
Brenda Donahue opened Caring Heart Creations at the Cape Breton Farmers' Market in March after months spent visiting a family member in hospital. Though she'd worked at the market before selling baked goods and repurposed clothing and jewelry, Donahue said she felt like her new venture was something people really needed.
"So the idea with Caring Heart Creations is that I create — mostly through sewing — products that are needed for people with challenges," said Donahue. "For example, a walker bag. So people who have to use walkers, obviously their hands are busy holding on to the walker and it's very difficult for them to carry or move things around.
"So the walker bag attaches to the walker and helps them with that issue."
Donahue's other creations include sensory toys, hats for people undergoing chemotherapy, seatbelt cushions and belts for insulin pumps. She also sells fidget quilts — blankets embellished with zippers, ribbons, buttons and other items that can help engage and soothe people.
Sacha Nadeau, director of programs and services at the Alzheimer's Society of Nova Scotia, said fidget quilts and similar items that stimulate memory can be meaningful for a person with dementia. They can also help calm what's known as responsive behaviours, she said.
"Those are when someone with dementia might have an unmet need," said Nadeau. "They might feel agitated because they're either over or under-stimulated. So these touch quilts are a really simple and often effective way to provide some calm and comfort or maybe even stimulation."
Donahue said one of her most popular items is a dignity bib that she's designed to look like a regular button-up shirt or blouse, but it's intended to go over someone's shirt.
"They're called dignity bibs in that you don't feel like you're wearing a bib like a baby. Also, I make a dignity scarf, which is similar to the bib, but it looks like you're wearing a nice silk scarf," she said.
Donahue said she hopes to expand her business to partner with people in the health-care industry.
Nadeau said there's a need for items specially designed for people with dementia who want to preserve their sense of identity after a diagnosis.
"I think it's really exciting to see any kind of innovation that supports persons with dementia and make sure that they can live with dignity and comfort," she said.
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