Weighted Blankets | Expert Give a Care Caregiving Tips
When I was in my early 20s and taking care of Mom, one of the odd jobs I did to make money was babysit for a large family – 4 kids ages 16, 9, 7, and 3. The 9 year old had autism; she was high-functioning but occasionally had meltdowns where she would be uncontrollably upset or hyperactive.
By the time she entered middle school, she was given a service dog that helped give her some security and balance for unknown and sudden emotions, but until that time, one of the “tools” her mother used to help calm her was a weighted blanket.
It fascinated me – this thin, long heavy blanket made of patchwork squares filled with small beads. This little girl would sleep with it, and if she was feeling overwhelmed or emotional, she would lie down with it on top of her. The weight of the blank provided therapeutic benefits, helping to calm her and apply deep pressure to aid relaxation.
It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine.” Temple Grandin is an adult with autism who has written multiple books, had a movie made about her life, and changed the landscape of autism and how people view kids and adults with autism. One of her greatest accomplishments, which stemmed from her own desire to be wrapped in pressure to aid her own anxiety, was developing a hug machine – a padded deep pressure device that helps provide sensory relief to people with hypersensitivity.
I think the idea behind the weighted blanket is similar, and at this time I was part-time nannying and caring for Mom, she was having tons of seizures – probably from stress, a misguided medicine regimen, and well, her epilepsy. She was also experiencing more and more muscle spasticity from her MS.
It dawned on me that a weighted blanket might help give Mom some feedback and neural relaxation to spasming muscles and nerves to help diminish the tremors and potentially prevent a seizure from happening. The woman I babysat for told me that her mother had actually hand-made the blanket they used for their daughter and she offered to get her to made me one.
A couple months later and no weighted blanket in site (can you blame her? Four kids!) I ended up looking online to buy one. While seemingly expensive for a blanket, since they are hand-sewn and specially constructed it wasn’t any surprise. To this day we have the 5 lb. blanket we got Mom so long ago and use it when she is lying in bed or rides in her wheelchair.
Want to make your own? I found a weighted blanket tutorial on Kelly.HogaBoom.org >
We have recently invested in a larger 10 lb. weighted blanket that is long enough to cover Mom’s entire body when she is lying down. The pressure is believed to help stimulate seratonin or dopamine production to procure feelings of relaxation, calmness, and reduced anxiety. Often with Mom’s tremors, I can squeeze a certain part of her leg or arm, for example, and get them to momentarily stop. The weighted blanked provides more sustained feedback. Less tremors and less seizures means Mom has more energy, which is always a good thing.