Lori Tulloch of Regina is a participant in the Saskatchewan Stitchers Conference being held in Muenster this week. She has also had a long career as a nurse with rotations in care facilities for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She has a new working role with the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. Tulloch’s experience in those worlds led her to pen a reflective look at the connection between the Conference, and social outlets like it, and the general mental well-being that comes with connection to others. The personal document, “My Prescription – Healthfulness" has led to a greater awareness of the importance of the Stitchers Conference and its collective, and it’s led to an event generating important funding for the Alzheimer Society. 

Tulloch says she’s always found the Stitchers Conference and its idyllic surroundings to be a source of rejuvenation – a “reboot” as she calls it. As she’s seen herself and her compatriots age, Lori has drawn some conclusions about the Conference’s impact in her own life and the lives of others. Her new experiences working with the Alzheimer Society have galvanized some of those thoughts.  

“Socialization is so important, how to use the right side of the brain and wake it up, and the support and the connectedness here is so healthy for us. It’s good for the brain, but it’s good for the whole body. Whatever you’re doing to help your brain be healthier, it’s good for all your other chronic diseases.”  

The long months of the pandemic lockdown have had a negative effect, Tulloch feels. Even though the Stitchers Conference went on in a virtual fashion in those intervening summers, Tulloch says it wasn’t the same. 

“It’s sitting with a person and looking them in the eye and hearing the side stories about someone becoming a grandmother or someone got a hip replaced. It’s those conversations that are so impactful.” 

In her writing, Tulloch sums up the experience eloquently. 

“Nothing could be more stimulating than being in a supportive, creative, educational, visually awakening environment as Stiches is. The right side of my brain wakes up being surrounded by all the positive stimulation. I get ‘perky’.” 

The Conference in Muenster is an example of the critical nature of connection for people, says Lori’s colleague Joanne Michael, director of programs and services for the Alzheimer Society.  

“Social engagement for all of us is really important, and it’s no different for somebody who’s living with dementia. The opportunities for social engagement sometimes change. So, to have a community such as the Stitchers that are what we call dementia friendly and dementia inclusive to welcome a person into their community is really important. We all need to have meaning and purpose, and that doesn’t change for someone with dementia.” 

The aspect of being able to focus on a skill-based activity is also important. Michael says that those endeavours requiring focus and some mental acuity provide comfort and familiarity. Hobbies like craftwork, writing, puzzling and reading should be encouraged as long as they can be managed by the individual. 

Lori Tulloch’s writing inspired the Stitchers community to gift some of their incredible work to generating funds for the Alzheimer Society. Instructor and participant Marci Baker donated nearly two dozen works for a silent auction with the proceeds heading to the charitable organization. 

“Donations like that from people in the community who think of the Alzheimer Society are really important to our cause,” says Michael. “It allows us to provide our programs and services free of charge to others who might be in need. It might be an individual support call, attending one of our learning opportunities, or participating in a support group.” 

For Lori Tulloch, her creative outlet and labour of love has become a support effort to those living with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Outlets like the Stitchers community can provide important connections for those who experience challenges in their lives.