Are Weighted Blankets Worth Trying in Your Facility?

Recently, the American Geriatrics Society’s MyAGSOnline member forum posted a question about the use of weighted blankets for a dementia unit with patients who had poor judgment, impulsiveness, poor safety recall, and frequent falls.  Dr. Maureen Nash, Board Certified in Internal Medicine & Psychiatry (Portland, Oregon) wrote they can have a positive impact in some older patients offering comfort as long as they are not too heavy. They are not considered a restraint by CMS unless they are inappropriately heavy.  They provide gentle tactile stimulation to people who usually are not touched except in a clinical situation. She gave several references:

  1. Brian, M., Champagne, T., Krishnamurty, S., Dickson, D., & Gao, R. (2008); Exploring the safety and therapeutic effects of deep pressure stimulation using a weighted blanket.  Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 24, 65-89. Doi:10.1300/J004v24n01_05
  2. Baker, R., Holloway, J., Holtkamp, C.C.M., Larsson, A., Hartman, L. C., Pe3arce, R. (2003);   Effects of multi-sensory stimulation for people with dementia. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 43, 465-77.  
  3. Chen, H-Y., Yang, H., Chi, H-J., & Chen, H-M. (2013). Physiological effects of deep pressure on anxiety alleviation:  The weighted blanket approach. Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, 33(5), 463-470. Doi: 10.5405/jmbe.1043.  

Spurred by this blog, I searched Dr. Google and found a huge public market for weighted clothing with testimonials about the value of hugging & swaddling type stimuli for relieving anxiety driven sleep deprivation as well as limited evidence for reducing anxiety in persons with autism.  

Web MD has a nice recent review on this subject via this link:

I also found a 5-minute YouTube video on the use of weighted blankets at American Senior Care Communities in Indiana.  They call this a type of “Deep Touch” therapy which has a calming effect. They use these blankets any time of day or night when someone seems excessively distressed.  Follow this link to view this video:

Weighted blankets and clothing appears to have potential promise in our setting of care.  They are potentially patient-focused, low-risk, and may have high value. Though the evidence base is not yet robust, it may be time to develop personal experience with this modality.

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