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Handmade distraction pads in high demand at Mayo Clinic

Volunteer handicrafters are needed to help keep up with the high demand for distraction pads, which help bring comfort to patients while keeping them safe.

Posted: Aug 6, 2018 10:47 AM
Updated: Aug 7, 2018 4:48 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Mayo Clinic is home to some of the most advanced pieces of medical equipment available. But recently, a growing number of departments in St. Mary’s Hospital have found that a very simple tool is effective to not only keep patients safe but also to bring them comfort. They’re called distraction pads and they are hand crafted by volunteers. The department of Neurology was the first to bring up the concept to the Mayo Clinic volunteer handicrafter group. The cloth lap pads are given to patients of all ages to help reduce anxiety and agitation. The volunteers sew things like zippers, pockets, Velcro, buttons and stuffed animals onto the pads. It gives patients something to keep their hands busy and away from IV lines and tubes which they can sometimes try to remove when they get agitated or confused.


Vernida Maley is one of the volunteer handicrafters and has herself created 40 distraction pads. As a former RN, she says knowing her creations are helping patients of all ages and conditions is a special feeling.


"At one of our big meetings Lisa had a big picture and on it was a small child playing with one of my pads and it was just like, "oh my gosh that's mine,” she explains.


Once word of the distraction pads started spreading, more departments were putting in requests. Vernida and other volunteers have made weighted pads to help calm pediatric patients with Autism. Complex Intervention, Hospice, and Occupational Therapy departments have all put in requests for the pads.


“We've had great success with patients who just seem unsettled, agitated; what we say is picky/pully on those lines and tubes that once you give them something this is comforting, its personal it's not another medical item," explains Occupational Therapist Kristin Hall, OTR.


Hall says the success is not just anecdotal, they’re finding that using them has decreased length of hospital stay in the ICU setting. So far this year seven volunteers have made about 40 distraction pads that patients get to take with them when the leave. As the demand continues to grow, they’re looking for more volunteers willing to help out. Volunteers just have to come in to pick up materials that are provided but can create the pads from home or anywhere. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer click here.

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