The art of distraction

18 December 2020

Nurses and Volunteers at The Wesley have been creating mini works of art to assist in the recovery of patients.

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The Wesley Hospital Clinical Nurse Educator Angela Heslip first came across the concept of a ‘distraction blanket’ while working in the UK and got to sewing during COVID-19.

“With our elderly patients who come in and may have fallen or suffered fractures – they are away from their familiar environment, they may have had surgery, had anaesthetic, may be experiencing pain and not know where they are,” said Angela.

The distraction blankets offered to these patients are a cushion-sized square of fabric, embellished with bells, zippers, buttons and objects of varying textures, designed to keep the patient’s hands and mind occupied.

“These sensory blankets provide a soothing and stimulating activity not only for patients living with dementia or recovering from a stroke but for any patient experiencing delirium and a change of environment. 

“They can help in refocusing attention away from necessary treatment devices and provide uninterrupted episodes of care.”

As an orthopaedic nurse, Angela is familiar with the distress that patient and their families can face while in hospital.

 “…and with COVID, in times when visitors were restricted, it just adds to the impact of some patients feeling isolated and having people they love and know around them. It is something so very simple to make an impact.”

Angela is working with a team of volunteers from across the hospital and the Wesley Choices Cancer Support Centre craft group to create the blankets.

“It’s been all hands on deck which is very nice.  They take about two and a half hours each to make and sew the bits and pieces on. I wander around Bunnings thinking ooh this is crinkly! That makes a noise! Perhaps I could sew that on.”

Anne Forbes volunteered at The Wesley as a Communion Minister until COVID-19 impacted upon her role earlier this year. As a gifted quilter, with a loyal connection to The Wesley, Anne was keen to get involved.

“It took me a while to think about what one could attach to a quilt. Angela had very creative ideas so I picked up on some of hers, and have made about ten blankets so far,” said Anne.

“I feel privileged to share my skills with people who have suffered from a terrible thing - the serious stroke patients and dementia patients. I recognise that that could be me! I’m well over 80 so I feel privileged to be able to help.”

The Wesley has rolled out the first batch of 30 blankets across their wards with great feedback, from the Children’s ward through to operating theatres for when patients first wake up.  

***The distraction blankets are one-patient use only. The public wishing to make a small donation of material, items or wadding can contact For patient safety, The Wesley Hospital are unable to accept donations of completed distraction blankets.

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