March 24, 2016 3 min read

The Benefits of Weighted Blankets for those with Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and is the only cause of death within the list of top 10 causes, that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. Alzheimers.org predicts that the number of Americans with the disease is poised to grow, with the number of affected persons over 65 set to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, interferes with the daily life of those affected, sometimes to a severe extent. Those who have the disease face great anguish as they begin to feel like they are losing control, or losing their treasured memories.

There is a strong link between Alzheimer’s Disease and anxiety. Studies have shown that anxiety may be associated with disability, increased health care reliance, and mortality in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) patients. Yet some 70 per cent of AD patients face this common mental condition, which makes their condition worse and bears a strong relationship to behavioral disturbances such as verbal threats, physical abuse, wandering, etc.

To treat the symptoms of AD, non-drug strategies are always the first line of defence and this is where a weighted blanket can play such an important role. The general aims of natural therapies include creating a calm state in the individual, promoting good rest between moments of activity, and the reduction of night time confusion and restlessness.

Weighted blankets are currently used in many mental health care settings to create a nurturing, soothing, caring sensation for the patient. Since they are heavier and adapt to the shape of the body, they bestow the sensation of being embraced and anecdotal evidence suggests that these blankets help persons feel more grounded, safe, and consoled.

In a study carried out in 2008 and published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, Brian Mullen et.al. conducted a study into the therapeutic effects of using a weighted blanket. To measure effectiveness, the researchers used electrodermal activity (EDA), the State Trait Anxiety Invetory-10 and an exit survey.

EDA is short for Electrodermal Activity. EDA tests are based on the measurement of psychologically induced sweating. The test is considered so effective because its variations show changes in the emotional state of patients.

The results of the study were impressive: 33 per cent of subjects had a lower EDA, 63 per cent reported they had less anxiety, and 78 per cent preferred the weighted blanket as a means of remaining calm.

There are many qualities of weighted blankets which lead to these anxiety-reducing results. First of all, the ‘touch pressure’ bestowed by the blanket lends a feeling similar to being embraced, held, swaddled or massaged. The combined effect is often referred to as Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS). Additional research shows that DPS has a calming effect for children and adults experiencing anxiety, autism, and attention-deficit issues.

One of the most attractive aspects of a weighted blanket is that in addition to quelling anxiety, it is also safe, having no adverse effect on pulse oximetry, heart rate, or blood pressure.

Because of their ability to lower anxiety and curb the ‘fight or flight’ response, weighted blankets are ideal for those with Alzheimer’s, as well as their families, who feel reassured to know that in their absence, their loved one can feel like they are being embraced and soothed. Indeed, anxiety in Alzheimer’s always extends beyond the patient, with family members often struggling with the burden of watching someone they love lose their memories and identity before their very eyes. Indeed, those caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s in a home setting will find that a weighted blanket can be very helpful in preventing a nervous state, and calming anxiety once it has begun.

If you have just purchased a weighted blanket for your friend or family members with Alzheimer’s, rest assured they are not the only ones reaping calming benefits. A review of existing research shows that weighted blankets are also used inpatient psychiatry clinics and are a chosen aid for those with Parkinson’s Disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, PTSD, ADHD, bipolar problems sleep disorders, and even menopause! Moreover, weighted blankets are safe for adults and children alike, making them an ideal first line of defence against symptoms of anxiety and nervousness.

For older people a lighter weighted blanket is recommended, 3 to 5 lbs. For more info check out mosaicweightedblankets.com


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