Girl Scout Creates Sensory Bags for Dementia Patients

Magdalena Stefanek, April 28, 2017

For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Maeve Cullen-Conway wanted to help people with dementia to connect and communicate with others. In doing so, she created 100 sensory bags which will be used for Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care patients with dementia.

Maeve worked with mentor Nancy Flowers, LCSW, Community Education Program Manager, who is an expert in dementia care and leads Rainbow’s Dementia with Dignity Program. Together they created bags that include stuffed animals, body lotion, foam balls, scented wax and more. Maeve also worked with Rainbow music therapists Soozie Cotter-Schaufele and Megan Toy to identify helpful music for CD’s to include in the bags.

The objects in these sensory bags are specially selected to help people with dementia connect with others and their environment using their senses, as they are often unable to communicate verbally.

Inspired by both her grandfathers’ struggles with dementia—her paternal grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease and her maternal grandfather has vascular dementia—Maeve decided to focus her project on helping those in her community who have had similar experiences.

“I hoped to make an impact on people with dementia, and as I moved through my project, I realized that I was also helping the people working with and communicating with the people with dementia. It benefits the patients, families and health care workers,” said Maeve, whose mother Kathleen is a bereavement counselor at Rainbow.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA, a seven-step project in which participants focus on solving an issue facing their community. To receive the award, a Girl Scout must complete more than 80 hours of community outreach related to their project, after having completed prior community service projects.

In addition to creating the sensory bags, Maeve provided training to community members on how to use them. Her project also included educational presentations about dementia issues to various groups in her community.

Maeve will receive her Girl Scout Gold Award on May 20, 2017. The sensory bags are currently being used by Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care staff to help patients with dementia.