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Weighted Blankets for Seniors: Uses, Risks, and Choosing the Best

Weighted Blankets for Seniors: Uses, Risks, and Choosing the Best

The benefits of weighted blankets, while not clinically proven, are well known and their use has skyrocketed. But should seniors use them? Keep reading to learn more about weighted blankets for seniors.
Weighted Blankets For Seniors
Weighted Blankets For Seniors
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Summary & Highlights

1. Weighted blankets should be used with caution and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Weighted blankets should not be used by people with certain medical conditions, such as respiratory issues or who cannot move independently.

2. Weighted blankets can be beneficial for people with insomnia, anxiety, and sensory processing disorders, as the added weight helps to stimulate the body’s production of serotonin and melatonin, resulting in improved mood and better sleep.

3. Weighted blankets can become too heavy for seniors or the elderly, so it’s important to have a blanket that is tailored to the individual’s size and strength. Additionally, weighted blankets should be washed regularly to prevent the accumulation of dirt and dust, which could irritate skin or worsen allergies.

Despite decades of recommendations by general physicians and occupational therapists, evidence of the efficacy and potential benefits of weighted blankets for seniors and the elderly are still scarce.[1] It is fair to say that medical practitioners do not fully understand how to use weighted blankets.

However, plenty of anecdotal evidence indicates that weighted blankets benefit the elderly looking for a non-drug means of negating anxiety, agitation, and poor sleep occasioned by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Additionally, the side effects of using weighted blankets are few and far between. This means there are negligible known risks to adding weighted blankets to the list of long-term medical devices we avail to our beloved seniors.

You can add weighted blankets to the list of items to help your loved one cope better with ailments without risking their health.

Examples of the Best Weighted Blankets for Seniors & The Elderly

ZonLi Weighted Blanket 15 pounds (60''x80'', Queen Size Dark Grey), Weighted Blankets for Adults/Kids, High Breathability Heavy Blanket, Soft Material with Premium Glass BeadsPin

ZonLi Cooling Weighted Blanket

from $59.99

Weighted blanket users tend to complain about the excessive heat retention that is typical of most weighted blankets. The added materials in the blanket’s structure that hold the weighted filling and the weighted filling tend to retain more heat than some would like.

ZonLi is notable among the weighted blankets products for being a cooling blanket. Because it is made of two layers of 100% quality cotton and premium glass beads, the blanket can meet all the performance requirements without fail. However, the dual cotton layers do not retain much heat and keep seniors in the perfect temperature range, even during summer.

To secure the beads in place, the ZonLi uses high-density stitching. And to ensure an even distribution of weight, the weight fillers are distributed in small square spaces. Another noteworthy feature of these blankets is the loops that secure the blanket to the cover, further improving the user’s experience.


ZonLi Weighted Blanket 15 pounds (60''x80'', Queen Size Dark Grey), Weighted Blankets for Adults/Kids, High Breathability Heavy Blanket, Soft Material with Premium Glass BeadsPin

Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket

from $59.99

I love the Bearaby cotton napper because it has a soft, homemade feel and appearance with all the benefits of a standard weighted blanket.

Bearaby is a chunky knotted blanket that uses only the fabric’s weight to provide heftiness rather than glass beads. If a blanket with glass beads isn’t made correctly, the beads have a tendency to shift and gather, creating an uneven appearance. Plus, glass beads can be hard to the touch. However, the Napper’s soft fabric comprises 95% cotton and 5% spandex.

Another huge benefit of this knit construction is that the Bearaby keeps you cooler than other weighted blankets. The knitting process creates “holes” in the blanket, which creates airflow, so that heat and moisture don’t build up.

You can get a Bearaby weighted blanket in 7 color choices and four different weights to match the needs of the senior who will be using it. It is even machine washable making it easy to care for as well.


Sensory Weighted Blanket for Anxiety - DementiaPin

Sensory Weighted Blanket for Alzheimer's & Dementia

$149.95

MindCare’s Sensory Weighted Blankets have designed this line of weighted blankets with dementia patients in mind. Perfectly weighted, the blanket can be used to cover the body when sleeping or wrap the shoulders while sitting. The weighted blankets are designed for comfort and apply pressure for a soothing effect that helps alleviate anxiety and other dementia-related symptoms.

Made of 100% premium cotton is aesthetically pleasing while being functional. It keeps users toasty warm and comfortable. Additionally, the pajama-soft fabrics used in manufacturing these blankets are made for durability. By using premium fabric, quality hypo-allergenic glass beads, and advanced manufacturing techniques, MindCare produces top-quality weighted blankets in the market for dementia patients.


Custom Weighted Blanket - WhitePin

SensaCalm Design Your Own Custom Weighted Blankets

$99.95

There are several options for weighted blankets, including types of fill and the materials used in manufacture, but what has been slightly lacking is choice regarding fabrics and patterns.

The great choice of available fabrics when ordering SensaCalm Custom Weighted Blankets changes that. The company offers a selection of over 50 patterns and various personalization options, including monogramming. The extensive online buying guide makes choosing the ideal pattern easy, and the company can even fulfill custom orders and source patterns that may have been discontinued.

There’s now a weighted blanket that will bring a smile to anyone’s face, irrespective of age or taste – and provide a great night’s sleep.


Adjustable Weighted BlanketPin

Skil-Care Adjustable Weighted Blanket

$122.93

The vast majority of weighted blankets have a static weight. Typically, adjusting the weighted blanket is impossible, which is not ideal for some patients. If you are a caregiver and the elderly under your care require weight adjustment in their blanket, you will be forced to invest in many blankets of different weights. Alternatively, you can buy RehabMart’s adjustable weighted blanket.

Unlike other weighted blankets, this model has pockets that create space for adding weighted gels if you need extra weight. The 52” by 36” blanket has 36 pockets, while the 63” by 42” has 49 pockets. The optional gel weights allow caregivers and patients to vary the blankets’ weight according to their specific needs at different times.

These blankets are non-allergenic as they are made with ultra-soft microfiber. It also has a machine washable cover that reduces the need to wash the blanket often while maintaining high hygiene standards.

This a good choice for elders looking for weight-adjustable weighted blankets.


Latte Minky Weighted BlanketPin

Minky Weighted Blankets by Mosaic

$139.95

Mosaic Weighted Blankets contain small plastic pellets sewn into individual pockets to provide even weight distribution and coverage. The weight of the pellets offers a body-hugging feeling, prompting a sense of calm so that you can fall asleep quickly.

Handcrafted in the USA, Mosaic Weighted Blankets come with non-toxic materials in the form of commercial-grade poly pellets. Moreover, the plush fabric ensures that the blanket is breathable.

These blankets weigh from 5 to 25 pounds and are available in various colors, styles, and sizes. A king size is ideal if you want to use it on your bed.


Gravity Z Blanket Weighted Blanket, Dual-Sided Temperature Controlling Weighted Blanket, 25 lbs Grey 90"x90" Queen/King, Original Weighted Blanket for Sleep, Washable Removable Duvet CoverPin

Gravity Z Weighted Blanket with Dual-Sided Temperature Controlling Removable Cover

Gravity Z is a premium weighted blanket that offers ultra-comfort while producing deep touch pressure stimulation. Aside from yielding all the benefits of using weighted blankets, Gravity Z Weighted Blanket adds a touch of luxury by using premium fabrics.

The one-of-a-kind duvet cover has a micro-plush finish on one side and cooling material on the other side. So, it can be used all year long.

Cleaning this blanket is an easy task because of the removable duvet cover.

It uses fine-grade glass beads for weight, which are secured by gridded stitching and inner ties that secure the blanket to its cover.

The Gravity Z is excellent for elders looking for comfort and luxury.


Weighted BlanketPin

Baloo Soft Weighted Blanket

from $179.00

Baloo’s range of soft weighted blankets is designed with a traditional sense of styling. Baloo uses 100% quality cotton and uses advanced manufacturing techniques to ensure their products are breathable, comfortable, and functional.

The quilted pattern is used to keep to secure the weighted filling in place, preventing bunching and/or pooling.

Additionally, by using cotton and superfine micro-bead weight fillings instead of bulky beads or poly pellets, Baloo blankets can better follow the contours of your body.

The beads are distributed at the center of the blanket, where it counts.

Baloo blankets are excellent for seniors looking for a weighted blanket that feels more like a standard blanket. From afar, the blanket looks normal in every bit.


Uses Of Weighted Blankets In The Elderly

While weighted blankets were first used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)[2] and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)[3] , this type of blanket has gained popularity for dealing with other conditions and ailments, including joint pain [4], Osteoarthritis [5], dementia, Alzheimer’s, insomnia [6], depression, anxiety [1], and even for loneliness among the elderly.

weighted blanket for dementiaPin
Anecdotal evidence has shown weighted blankets have a calming effect on seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Using Weighted Blankets For Adults With Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Anecdotal evidence shows that weighted blankets are beneficial to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. [7]

The benefits seem to come from the Deep Pressure Touch (DPT) and the grounding/earthing effects the blankets produce.

DPT and earthing help alleviate the signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the more common signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease include anxiety, agitation, and disturbed sleep.

Weighted blankets are designed to mimic deep-tissue massages. In effect, covering yourself with a weighted blanket provides a kind of deep tissue massage by producing DPT. Studies indicate that applying deep and gentle pressure activates proprioceptive input to facilitate the production of serotonin.[8]

Serotonin helps produce melatonin, the sleeping hormone, and oxytocin, a hormone used to reduce pain perception [9], which combine to enhance relaxation. The relaxing effect of deep tissue helps seniors with dementia attain deeper sleep.

Grounding is the sensation of being gently pressed down to the ground. This earthing effect inhibits the production of cortisol, a hormone associated with the occurrence of stress [10] and anxiety [11].

Weighted Blankets: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • A drug-free means of managing the signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, including anxiety.
  • Seniors benefit from better and deeper sleep when covered with a weighted blanket by alleviating conditions such as restless leg syndrome.
  • The grounding effect of weighted blankets can reduce the perception of stress and anxiety common among dementia patients.
  • Weighted blankets reduce physical discomfort.
  • As a one-time purchase, weighted blankets are relatively cheaper than other means of treating dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Cons

  • It takes some time to get used to the weight and tightness of a weighted blanket.
  • There is no certainty about what works and does not with the inadequate research studies on weighted blankets.
  • When the elderly get used to weighted blankets, they find sleeping without one difficult, if not impossible.
  • The added weight of the blankets makes them difficult to travel with.
  • Selecting one blanket can be difficult.
elderly woman propped up in bed under a weighted blanketPin
Weighted blankets are generally considered safe for the elderly, but there are some risks for seniors with respiratory problems, severe joint pain, and other medical conditions.

Risks & Side Effects Of Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are safe for use by healthy individuals. Older children, teenagers, adults, and seniors are known to use prescribed weighted blankets to help manage and cope with mental ailments and conditions without facing any risk.

However, sleeping with a weighted blanket can be risky under specific circumstances. For instance, for the elderly suffering from asthma and obstructive sleep apnea, there is a risk of a weighted blanket exacerbating the breathing problem, especially during the hot summer months. For seniors with claustrophobia, weighted blankets’ tightness and earthing effect might trigger panic episodes.

Weighted blankets also have the potential to exacerbate open wounds and skin burns. And like any other blanket, weighted blankets can cause allergies.

Are Weighted Blankets Safe For Seniors?

As mentioned above, using weighted blankets is generally safe. Consult with your physician if you have any questions about the safety of weighted blankets for seniors.

If an elderly loved one has breathing, circulatory, and temperature regulation problems, using weighted blankets should always be under medical professionals’ guidance. The added weight and increased heat insulation might impact the health of the elderly negatively.

Caregivers should avoid covering seniors with an inability to remove the blanket. Additionally, seniors with severe bodily pain should refrain from using weighted blankets. The pressure could make the pain worse.

Guidelines for Using Weighted Blankets With Seniors

Given that weighted blankets are safe for most seniors to use, transitioning to weighted blankets is generally easy.

Choose a blanket that is 10% of your body weight. You can always use a heavier (at most 12% of your body weight) or lighter (at least 5% of your body weight) blanket, depending on your comfort level and needs.

For first-time weighted blanket users, consider covering the lower half of your body with the blanket during the first one week. Easing your way into using weighted blankets will reduce the shock of the added weight your body experiences. Additionally, easing yourself into weighted blankets will negate feeling claustrophobic.

Concerning cleanliness, you want to purchase a weighted blanket with a removable cover. Due to the added weight of weighted blankets, washing these blankets can be a tad difficult. Caregivers will, therefore, find it difficult, if not impossible, to regularly wash the blanket as needed to maintain high hygiene standards. With a removable cover, you can wash the cover as often as needed without incurring the hassle of moving a heavy blanket around.

senior woman looking out a window sitting in a rocking chair with a weighted lap padPin
Weighted lap pads and lap blankets are an alternative weighted blanket for seniors who don’t like the whole body being covered or under pressure.

Weighted Lap Pads Vs. Weighted Blankets

The clue is the name; weighted lap pads are designed and optimized specifically for use while sitting down. Weighted lap pads are optimized to cover the laps and legs. Some lap pads are designed with features to secure the pads to wheelchairs. On the other hand, weighted blankets have a typical blanket design and shape.

They also have different prices. Generally, weighted lap pads are cheaper than weighted blankets. Finally, weighted lap pads tend to have limited uses compared to weighted blankets. Lap pads have limited uses, mainly to relieve joint pains, while weighted blankets are used for the range of applications mentioned above.

Weighted blankets and weighted lap pads are both used for pressure therapy.

How to Make a Weighted Blanket

While plenty of mass-produced weighted blankets are on the market, you can choose to go the DIY route. Making your own weighted blanket will ensure you have a blanket that suits your needs. From customizing the blanket’s weight to using filler materials that provide the right weight distribution, you can create a bespoke blanket and experience.

Many tutorials are available online on making weighted blankets on a budget, even with limited DIY skills. In fact, making your own weighted blankets makes for an interesting project for individuals looking to stay active.

Good examples of DIY weighted blankets can be found in this video:

How to make a Weighted Blanket Tutorial Video

Frequently Asked Questions/FAQ

Does Medicare Cover Weighted Blankets?

No, Medicare will not pay for a weighted blanket. There is a long list of qualifications before Medicare will pay for durable medical equipment for its beneficiaries. There has to be a proven clinical benefit of the product, and the product has to go through several committees and receive what is called an HCPCS code. And unfortunately, there is no HCPCS code for weighted blankets now.

Can Weighted Blankets Be Used in Nursing Homes?

Apart from seniors with conditions that prohibit them from using a weighted blanket, the elderly can use weighted blankets in various environments where stress and anxiety may arise. This includes nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where caregivers use weighted blankets to help seniors calm down and grounded.

Efforts are underway to better understand weighted blankets’ effects through various clinical trials (source).

Are Weighted Blankets Considered a Restraint?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not consider weighted blankets as restraints. However, when seniors use an inappropriately sized weighted blanket, the weight might restrain their range and variety of movements, thereby acting as a restraint. (source)

Can A Weighted Blanket Be Too Heavy?

Yes, a weighted blanket might get too heavy if you choose an inappropriate weight. It is recommended that weighted blanket users select a product that is about 5% to 10% of their body. The key to choosing the right weight for weighted blankets for seniors is ensuring the user retains all the freedom of movement possible.

Sources:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/do-weighted-blankets-work
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd
  3. https://www.additudemag.com/weighted-blankets-as-therapy/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3088531/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6279287/
  6. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/2/298.long
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/anxiety-and-stress-weighing-heavily-at-night-a-new-blanket-might-help
  8. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05
  9. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20101114/oxytocin-more-than-mere-love-hormone#1
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650465/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424606/

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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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