Theona Combos initially used knitting as “just something to do” when she lost her mum in May last year after a 16-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She says “I came home and there was nothing; there was no one to talk to. I just felt lost, I guess, for a long time”.
“I’ve got all these things to do at home but I couldn’t focus on anything, so then I thought ‘oh, I’ll just knit’, and started knitting.”
Now, she’s brought together a group of around 20 women, who have been touched by the disease, to form the Dementia Demolition Squad Action Group. The group meet once a month to chat, support each other and knit for people in need.
“At the moment we’re knitting beanies for babies. It gives people a sense of purpose; there’s value in what we’re doing,” Theona says.
The group have knitted over 200 items, including scarves and beanies, and have donated their creations to organisations including Vinnies Night Patrol, GIVIT and Toora Women Inc.
“I know there’s a lot of knitting groups in Canberra, but there’s a need for charity, I guess, community,” Theona says.
“It’s important that people have a place to go, relating to dementia, to talk, because we’ve all been through it in one way or another. I find at meetings, dementia doesn’t come up all the time, but when it does, that person is listened to, and supported, and helped in any way.
“Just the interaction; just having someone who understands what you’re going through, I think, is one of the biggest emotional supports that the group provides. It’s a safe place, it’s a comforting place, and it’s about having fun.”
She says knitting is “therapeutic” for the members.
“I don’t know where this group is going to go; but I hope we achieve great things. And we’re helping others while helping ourselves. It gives you a sense of satisfaction to help other people.”
The group meet every three or four weeks at cafes around Canberra, and everyone is welcome to drop in for a chat – no knitting experience required!
To join the group or donate some yarn, search for ‘Dementia Demolition Squad Action Group’ on Facebook.