Family members and caregivers of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can attest to the insidious nature of the symptoms of those diseases. Memory loss and the reduced ability to communicate can result in anxiety and depression. The recent death of legendary coach Dean Smith brought to light his struggle with dementia. Singer Glen Campbell even recorded a song that describes his battle with Alzheimer’s.
Alleghany County native Janet Tompkins has witnessed these struggles firsthand and has set out to bring comfort to those wrestling with these diseases.
After graduating from Alleghany High School, Janet attended Appalachian State University where she received a graduate degree in Communication Disorders. After an internship in Alaska working with the native population, she worked as a travel therapist which led her all across the United States.
Now, as owner of Speechpath Tools in Sparta, Janet continues to work with dementia patients as well as those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and strokes. She describes the goal of therapy as to help the patients develop a greater sense of independence and to improve their quality of life. The decrease in ability to communicate can lead to patients feeling isolated and alone. To help combat these emotions, Janet has designed and developed Comfort Companions.
Comfort Companions are pillowy dolls that weigh approximately 2 lbs. and incorporate numerous tactile features that increase sensory perception. The dolls are made from soft fabric to have a soothing feel. There are brightly colored buttons, beads and ribbons that are designed to occupy fidgety hands. Family photos and small memory books can be placed in the pocket on the front of each doll. These photos and books are tools that caregivers can use to help stimulate memory and assist with higher level communication. Each doll is scented with lavender which studies have found has a soothing quality that reduces anxiety and depression.
Janet expects her first delivery of 1,000 Comfort Companions in 6-8 weeks. There will be three variations in hair color and she hopes to add additional ethnicities in the future. Her marketing outlets will include hospital gift shops, drug stores, rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities, and through web-based platforms. The projected retail price is $54.95.
Since she was 18 years old, Janet has worked as a model. Photographs of her have appeared in Vogue and Glamour magazines. A stereotypical view of fashion models is that they can be quite self-focused. Janet credits growing up and living in a community where older adults are valued, and where there is an expectation to take care of your neighbors, as helping keep her focused on those things in life that truly matter most.
For more information contact Janet Tompkins at J@speechpathtools.com