76 year old Derry woman rediscovers a love for knitting

Kay McGlinchey was withdrawn and had no interest in trying any activities in the care home she resides in. That was until she was handed a pair of knitting needles and her life changed for the better.

By Daire Ní Chanáin
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 12:44 pm

The 76 year old Derry woman, who resides in Ardlough Care Home in Drumahoe, was withdrawn and had no interest in taking part in any activities. That was until Tina Hutton came along.

Tina is the Personal Activities Leader in the Mental Health Unit of the home and she was determined to help Kay find a passion she was interested in to help her pass the time.

Tina explained, “I was trying to think what to do. When they’re in their rooms all day, it’s very long and isolating. I knew she wouldn’t paint because it’s too messy and I tried a few other things but Kay had no interest at all.

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Kay McGlinchey discovered a love for knitting before Christmas in Ardlough Care Home and the 76 year old hasn't looked back.

“It was around September or October, I asked if she could knit but she told me no, she couldn’t. I brought her in a ball of wool anyway, cast on around 30 stitches and handed her the needles and the wool. Off she went knitting and she hasn’t looked back since. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I came back a day later and she had half a scarf knit! The big smile on her face, too was just amazing to see!

“This has really taken her out of herself and she’s a different person. Her family can’t believe the difference in her.”

Kay said, “I must have learned to knit when I was in school but I hadn’t knit at all since then. It just came back to me straight away when Tina gave me the needles.

“Knitting makes the day go quicker because I have something to do. My family can’t get over it. I have seven grandchildren and they’re all so pleased that I have the knitting now too.

Kay McGlinchey with Tina Hutton, who reintroduced Kay to knitting, with carer Sammi Ryan and Assistant Manager Mark Collins.

“It takes about six days to make a scarf and I work for six hours each day. When it comes to 4pm, I put them down because I have arthritis in my hands so I can’t go for too long.

“The knitting’s great, you can watch the TV and knit and it keeps the hands busy. They give me the wool and I just work away. There’s no pressure to get scarves made, I just take my time and it’s done when it’s done.

“They’re all so good to me here. I missed my family over lockdown because they would have come regularly before that. I would have a different visitor every day but I haven’t seen them now since Christmas. These three months since I seen them last have been so hard.”

Kay has led a very busy life so she didn’t have any time to knit before now. She says she wouldn’t change a thing, though, “I was too busy to knit before. I had a family, my children were born one after the other and I worked as home help as well, I loved that. So I was very busy between raising my family and working and just didn’t have the time to knit.”

Ardlough Care Home in Drumahoe is home to Kay McGlinchey.

Although knitting has proven to be very popular in the home, it isn’t the only activity they do. Tina and her team work hard to find activities that interest the residents so that they lead a happy and fulfilling life.

She said, “The residents all have different interests so we work to help them find something they love. The activities have been vital these past three years of Covid. Because of lockdowns, we haven’t been able to have visitors and a lot of people have had to stay in their rooms. I have to be persistent, I would never force anyone to try an activity but I bring different things trying to find something they enjoy.

“We have been doing some gardening, planting seeds in the rooms and the residents watch them grow. We have an outdoors area with planters where we can plant them out when they’re big enough and the residents can sit outside and enjoy the outdoors.

“We have a knitting club, too, so we try to encourage other people to go to that. Some have more patience than others but everyone gives it a go. We have some residents who wouldn’t have sat in one place for more than five minutes but now, they sit and knit for a few hours and that has spilled over into their life too, outside of knitting. We got a donation from the Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group of about six sets of wool and needles just before Christmas, so that has helped us with our club and people can knit in their rooms, like Kay, if they want to.”

It’s not just the residents who caught the knitting bug, either. Carer Sammi Ryan learned to cast on and knit a few stitches when Tina was on holiday and now she loves nothing more than to sit with Kay for a knit and a chat.

“Kay is a different woman now from the first day I met her. She calls me her ‘other daughter’ because we have grown close now and she’s really come out of herself.

“Tina has helped so many other residents too. She has started a game where she puts a big word on the board and the residents make smaller words out of it and some of the residents are on fire! They are so able for it and using their minds in different ways that they wouldn’t have been doing without her.”
Assistant Manager of Ardlough Care Home, Mark Collins, added, “Tina has never done anything like this job before but, since she came in, she has made such a difference to the residents. When she’s off on holidays, they all miss her so much and ask about her. Kay has really come back to herself since starting to knit too and it’s just wonderful to see.”

Kay’s scarves have been a big hit with her family, staff members and other residents and she now has a long list of people waiting for one. She decided, with Tina’s help, to ask people to make a £10 donation to Foyle Search and Rescue when they get a scarf.

Tina said, “Foyle Search and Rescue do so much for the city and they just never stop. They do so much for the city and there’s a huge mental health problem here so they need all the money they can get. We’re a mental health unit here so it seemed fitting that we chose them. We only decided this recently but she has £20 in the pot already.

“The staff members love to watch her knit and she has become a bit of a celebrity here because of how well she has taken to it and the change it has brought in her too. People are just so happy to see Kay back to herself.

“There’s loads of residents in homes that are probably sitting all day doing nothing and that just breaks my heart. I would love if Kay’s story inspired other homes to help their residents find something they love that they can do to pass the day.”

So, what advice does Kay have for other people like her? “I would tell other people in the same situation as me to start knitting or get a hobby. I wasn’t at myself before but the knitting has helped so much.”