‘Sewing Sister’ Helps Alzheimer’s, Dementia Patients

June 21, 2018

FORT SMITH, Ark. – Sister Hilary Decker of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith had lots of cloth material and time to sew. All she needed was a good cause.

Many of Mercy Hospice’s Alzheimer’s and dementia patients lacked a way to keep their hands busy. All they needed was a Good Samaritan.

Sister Decker became that Good Samaritan, but these days she’s better known as the Sewing Sister.

Mercy Hospice in Fort Smith has hospice patients who are active with their hands and look for something to do with them, according to hospice volunteer coordinator Valarie Coleman. Too many were fidgeting with their oxygen lines or other medical devices, putting themselves at risk.

Coleman had seen an apron, fondly known as a “busy bib,” that has zippers, buttons, beads and other items sewn on, and sought someone who would volunteer to make several for the patients.

“If they have the apron, they will fidget with the objects that are sewn on,” she said.

About the time Sister Decker became a hospice volunteer about a year ago, she learned of the need and offered to make aprons. To date, she’s machine-sewn and donated more than 50 of various colors and patterns.

“I just wanted to do something,” said Sister Decker, who learned how to sew by taking a class at Sears in the mid-1950s. “I needed more to do and had all of this donated material.”

Mercy Hospice also gives an apron to a patient who, for example, is a former smoker who’s used to holding a cigarette or someone who is nervous or has anxiety.

“The aprons have a calming effect to them,” Coleman said. “We had a lady who used to be a hairdresser, so a large piece of Velcro was sewn on so ‘brush’ rollers could be attached.”

Sister Decker also made regular aprons to give to each Sister at the monastery last Christmas, but her real joy in making them is knowing they help hospice patients.

“I’m told they love them and everybody wants one,” she said. “It’s time-consuming but very worthwhile. I’ve got enough material to make a hundred more.”

Check out a photo gallery of Sister Hilary Decker's creations.

Sewing Sister 1