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.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
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Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. 

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 even fair to say that medical practitioners do not fully understand how best 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.

What Are Weighted Blankets?

Weighted blankets are therapeutic blankets designed and manufactured to have extra weight that exerts pressure across the user’s entire body, which yields pressure therapy. Some weighted blanket models use extra heavy-duty fabric layers to attain extra weight, while others use weighted fillers in the form of glass beads or plastic fillers to increase the blanket’s weight.

While the weight will vary greatly from one blanket model to the next, the weight spectrum tends to range from 5 to 30 pounds for weighted blankets targeted at the elderly. Additionally, there is variation in the materials, shapes, and colors used to make weighted blankets.

Examples of the Best Weighted Blankets for Seniors & The Elderly

So, if you have decided a weighted blanket is a good choice for you or a senior you love, here are some of my favorite weighted blankets, taking into account the special needs of seniors and the elderly.

Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket

Bearaby The Napper Blanket
Where to Buy:

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 the weight of the fabric to provide heftiness instead of 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 Bearaby Nappers are soft to the touch, and made of 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 Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Sensory Weighted Blanket for Anxiety - Dementia

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.


SensaCalm “Design Your Own” Custom Weighted Blankets

SensaCalm Custom Weighed Blankets
Where to Buy:

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.

The great choice and quality of SensaCalm Custom Weighted Blankets make choosing the ideal weighted blanket easy – and fun. 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.


Skil-Care Adjustable Weighted Blanket

Skil-Care Adjustable Weighted Blanket
Where to Buy:

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 varying 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.


Minky Weighted Blankets by Mosaic

Minky Weighted Blankets by Mosaic
Where to Buy:

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 Weighted Blanket with Dual-Sided Temperature Controlling Removable Cover

Image: Amazon API
Where to Buy:

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. As such, the elderly can use this blanket in the dead of winter or the middle of summer. Cleaning this blanket is an easy task owing to the removable duvet cover. You detach the duvet from the inner weighted blanket and machine wash the cover.

It uses fine-grade glass beads for weight, which are secured by gridded stitching. The blankets have elastic-button connectors and ties that secure the inner weighted blanket to the cover to ensure an even weight distribution.

The Gravity Z is a good choice for elders looking for comfort and luxury in their weighted blankets.


Baloo Soft Weighted Blanket

Image: Amazon API
Where to Buy:

Baloo’s range of soft weighted blankets is designed with a traditional sense of styling in mind. Baloo uses 100% quality cotton and uses advanced manufacturing techniques to ensure their products are breathable, comfortable, and functional. The entire blanket – the exterior, interior, and fill – is made using cotton, which is durable and easy to maintain.

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. Moreover, the micro-beads are well distributed to the places where it counts. Rather than having weighted microbeads all over the blanket, the beads are used at the center of the blanket, where it counts.

Baloo weighted blankets are good choices for individuals looking for a weighted blanket with traditional blanket aesthetics and feel. From afar, the blanket looks normal in every bit.


ZonLi Cooling Weighted Blanket

Image: Amazon API
Where to Buy:

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.


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. As you can appreciate, the benefits of weighted blankets are all-encompassing.

weighted blanket for dementia
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

While we do not have a full understanding of why weighted blankets yield positive effects on the elderly, anecdotal evidence is clear that weighted blankets are helpful and beneficial to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. [7] Much of the effectiveness of the weighted blankets stems 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. The weight of the blanket is used to apply deep pressure on your tissues. 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 gently pressed down to the ground, which is common when you cover yourself with a weighted blanket. 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 the 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 what does not work 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 blanket
Weighted blankets are generally thought to be 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 depending on the materials used to manufacture the blankets.

Are Weighted Blankets Safe For Seniors?

As mentioned above, using weighted blankets is generally safe. Covering a senior with the right weighted blanket has no great risk to their health. That being said, some conditions make the use of weighted blankets infeasible. 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 from regular blankets to weighted blankets is generally easy. The most important tip for using weighted blankets is always to use an appropriately weighted blanket. Overbearing your body with too much weight while sleeping will negate the benefits of using this type of blanket and, in some cases, cause health issues.

To this end, 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 pad
Weighted lap pads and lap blankets are an alternative weighted blanket for seniors who don’t like the whole body is 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 design and shape and are meant to use in place of regular blankets.

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.

Despite their different form factors, weighted blankets and weighted lap pads use the same principle to help the user. They are used for pressure therapy by producing DPT and earthing. In this regard, both the lap pads and blankets are similar.

RELATED: Best Heated Blankets for Wheelchair Users

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 how to make 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?

The quick answer to this question is 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.

However, it is important to note that the medical fraternity is yet to fully understand the efficacy of using weighted blankets to help patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless, 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 weight of the blanket you choose depends on the specific user and their needs. The key to choosing the right weight for weighted blankets for seniors is ensuring the user retains all the freedom of movement possible.

Summary And Final Recommendations

Increasingly, seniors are moving away from pure drug-based remedies to a more wholesome solution to their health issues. At the very least, they are incorporating more natural remedies into their daily lives. Weighted blankets for seniors can help alleviate signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. We’ve listed some of the best-weighted blankets for seniors with dementia. You can select either one of them depending on your specific needs.

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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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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