The use of Bean Bags allows us to stimulate
emotional connection, laughter and conversation with those who have
Originally, when we came up with this deceptively simple idea, our
intent was to create an environment of inclusion and participation. We
simply hoped elders could do something together that was more than
Quickly, however, Bean Bags evolved into a powerful
communication tool…great for hand-eye coordination,
boosting self-esteem and encouraging decision making.
Very early we saw repeated examples of participants (who were seated in
a circle) making decisions about where to toss the Bean Bag. The choice
to send it to a certain person was akin to gift giving and, in many
cases, a substitute for spoken messages. Of course, tosses ranged from
careful and very gentle to spirited throws with gusto…and gales of
of the hallmark communication skills for caregivers to use with those
who have dementia is patience. Frequently,
those with memory loss have difficulty gathering thoughts and/or forming
sentences. Bean Bags give both parties “something to do”
while the wheels are turning. No conversation is
necessary…just a simple toss and catch. During this silent period,
nonverbal communication often creates an emotional connection.
Here's one vivid example. We watched a man (who was emotionally crushed
by the changes in his wife due to Alzheimer's) experience a truly
magical afternoon. The bags circled around the room in a three-way toss.
After a relatively short time, words to an old and familiar hymn (Count
Your Blessings) began to flow from Zelma's memory vaults. It was
clear she had not attended a church that sang only the first and last
verses of hymns.
We have seen things like this happen dozens of times.
Bags become a low-tech connection device to wire people and time
together. They are magical in that they transcend language barriers,
bridge cultural differences, and often accommodate a wide variety of
If you can toss, catch, and keep the pace of conversation
matched to the time needed for a person with dementia to respond,
you're going to be blown away by what happens when you have a couple of
For a longer article explaining the origin of this
concept, CLICK HERE.
WHAT'S IN 'EM?
In our original Bean Bag design, we filled small
sacks with dried pinto beans. One resident with dementia, Mel, caught a
bag, began to carefully feel the tiny objects inside the cloth cover and
exclaimed, “Now if only we had a slab of ham, we'd have
ourselves a feast!”
Since then, we have changed our
filling material from beans to polypropylene pellets (plastic). Now the
bags get dirty, are thrown into washing machines, and come out clean and
fresh…but we suspect they wouldn't be very good with ham.
If you would like to place an order, please e-mail