Woman remembers how to quilt, despite Alzheimer

Woman remembers how to quilt, despite Alzheimer
By: Tiffany Sisson

CHARLESTON, MO --On any given day, you'll find Roberta Sloan with a thimble on her right hand, ...needle and thread in the other, one stitch away from piecing together her next quilt. "Just picked it up myself, ' exclaimed Sloan.
At 96, Sloan has Alzheimer. She now lives at the Charleston Manor. Lillian Bankhead is one of Sloan's 15 children, "She's been quilting ever since I can remember. You know, when we grew up you had to quilt your own cover."
Since her time at the manor, Sloan has pieced together enough quilts to cover nearly every bed. Ruth Watson helped to rekindled the stitch in Sloan's hands. Watson chose Sloan's name at Christmas, "She wanted quilt blocks, and thread, and scissors, and stuff to quilt with."
Watson now visits Sloan regularly. Watson's mother, who also had Alzheimer, recently died. "I try to supply her with quilt blocks all the time, because I know with Alzheimer, you need to keep your mind busy," said Watson.
Sloan quilts as a way to pass the time, keeping her body and mind busy. "Just keep me from just sitting here, holding my hands. When I do something, that makes me feel better," explained Sloan.
Trina Holt is a registered nurse at Charleston Manor. Holt says remembering how to quilt is special, but not unique to Alzheimer patients like Sloan. "It's not that her physical functioning is more, it's that we've been able to tap into what it is that she did before," explained Holt.
There are different levels of memory. Alzheimer patients typically lose what's called episodic memory, recalling a specific time or place. When quilting, Sloan is relying on procedural memory. "With procedural memory, these are things they've learned by repetition, maybe things that they can't explain how to do like driving a car or riding a bicycle," said Holt.
Holt added, "Whoever thought that this many years, later in her life, that something she would come back to as her love that would keep her going mentally, physically, spiritually. It's obvious it's something she goes to on all three realms."
You can help pull an interest, like quilting, from their memory bank. For example, if you suspect gardening was once their love, lead them to a garden. Watch for clues that peak their interest, helping to get their memory back in motion.