What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the patient suffers from memory disorder due to death of brain cells. It is a type of dementia which gets worse over time. According to an estimate, there are around 5.3 million Alzheimer patients in the United States of America alone. It is one of the most common death causing diseases and an effective cure has not yet been discovered.

The loss of memory is very difficult for people who suffer from it, which often plunges them into a state of depression. These gradual losses of memories quietly remove their independence by preventing them from performing the simplest of daily tasks. This situation often leads towards sleep disorder and anxiety from the fear of forgetting their own identity.

How Weighted Blankets Can Help?

Weighted blankets, as their name suggests, are blankets that carry extra weight, to put it simply. They  are designed with compartments filled with nontoxic poly pellets or glass beads.

The basic concept behind these blankets is known as Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation (DPTS). When the body is being touched in a gentle way, for example during a hug, certain hormones are stimulated in the body which helps it in relaxing. The evenly distributed weight of a weighted blanket puts gentle pressure on the body, mimicking the feeling of a hug, which results in the release of those calming hormones. The use of a weighted blanket has been proven helpful for patients suffering of depression, anxiety, hyperactivity disorder and sleep disorder.

A number of seniors and adults facing Alzheimer’s disease often complains of sleep disorders and anxiety. The constant fear and dementia make life really hard for them. As they are unable to remember important things, they lose productivity as well as balance in their life. The disease becomes worse with each passing day as the patients lose control over their emotions and decisions. Using weighted blankets can provide patients with a sense of security and warmth. Although there are a number of medicines in the market to fight and slow the progression of this disease, weighted blankets are a gentle and medication-free treatment to soothe the symptoms.

Effective for Mood Swings and Discomfort

The worst part of Alzheimer is the dementia associated to it. It is really painful for anybody to start forgetting the most important people in their life. Missing out on important occasions, forgetting important events and not knowing what to do the next moment are atrocious symptoms that are very difficult to live with.

The persons going through such a difficult situation need all the help they can get. Weighted blankets can be of great assistance in this kind of scenario. Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation can be described as pressure on certain points on the body resulting in the calmness of the patient. Scientifically the pressure stimulates certain hormones in the body that are responsible for relaxing the body along with the brain. The release of these hormones not only slows the heartbeat but also lowers the blood pressure which keeps the patient from being hyperactive.

People with Alzheimer are likely to go through mood shifts, discomfort and constant fear. Weighted blankets have proven to provide a hug like feeling to the users. It really means a lot for a patient to feel comforted and that he is not alone.

Stress Relief and Treatment for Insomnia

It is quite possible that due to constant fear and dementia, insomnia becomes a regular issue. Sleeping for a few hours and then waking up also ruins the sleeping cycle of the whole family as the patient needs constant care. Giving the patient a weighted blanket is like offering him the feeling of being held. Weighted blanket ensures that the person doesn’t feel alone and the stimulation of oxytocin and serotonin relaxes the body. This results in stress relief, allowing the patient to sleep better. Proper sleep cycle allows the person to not have to suffer so much mood swings and depression since he feels better physically and mentally after having slept well.

Increased Production of Melatonin

Melatonin is commonly known as the “sleep hormone.” It greatly affects the sleep of a person and it is produced from serotonin. The therapeutic aspect of the weighted blanket ensures the increased stimulation of this particular hormone. This process not only helps to decrease the risks of insomnia but also helps the patient to spend stress-free time. The gentle pressure of the weighted blankets stimulating various receptors helps to  reduce anxiety and improves the behavior in a positive way.

Assistance for Focus Improvement

One of the other great losses of the patients suffering from this particular disease is the loss of focus and concentration. It is quite understandable that when you keep forgetting important points and situations it is really difficult to focus on even the smallest matter. The daily life of the patient is immensely disturbed due to the gradual memory loss. Obviously, weighted blankets will not cure the loss of memory, but they have been scientifically proven to be helpful in improving the ability to focus.

Patients with Alzheimer’s have difficulty communicating with others and are often observed throwing tantrums or feeling depressed. During this kind of situation, the heartbeat and the blood pressure of the patient increases. Giving a weighted blanket to a patient going through such a situation helps him feel relaxed after a while. Once the patient has stopped reacting in a violent manner, he can think more clearly and analyze the situation in a better way. This would provide him more patience and a chance to communicate with others in a better way.

Imitating a Hug

It has been discovered in recent studies that hugs help make a person feel at ease. The sense of being in the arms of a loved one is quite reassuring and makes us feel safe. The gentle pressure of the weighted blanket can give the user the feeling of being cuddled. When somebody hugs a person, the brain sends a message to the body to release oxytocin in the blood stream which calms the heartbeat. This results in the overall relaxation of the body. Though the weighted blanket couldn’t be a replacement to human touch, the body can perceive certain warmth and hug like feeling from it due to its evenly distributed weight. Using a weighted blanket can provide the patient with a hug like feeling and lure the body into relaxing in a result of this gentle pressure.

A research, published in the Journal of Occupational Theory and Mental Health in 2008, concluded that 63% of the subjects resulted with lower anxiety levels after using a 30 lb weighted blanket. In addition to this, 78% of the subjects endorsed weighted blanket as a source of calmness for them. In 2012, an Australian research study provided strong evidence that the use of weighted blankets immensely reduced the stress and anxiety levels of the patients.

The reduced stress level helps the Alzheimer patients to concentrate more on having a good time with their family and friends. This also ensures that they can focus on the things that matter to them and in the process helps to prevent the gradual memory loss without even knowing it.

Conclusion

Alzheimer is a devastating disease that can upset the life of any person. As there is no particular cure for it, all anybody can do is try and decrease the harmful effects as much as possible.

Weighted blankets have been scientifically proven to be an effective tool for the caretakers of these kinds of patients. The stress relief and calming effect of this special kind of blanket could be handy for a number of patients who are at the early stages of this disease. Weighted blankets could help them to focus better and provide them with the opportunity to have a greater quality of life with reduced fear and anxiety. A calm body and a stress-free mind lead to a depression-free life and it could be achieved with the regular use of weighted blankets.

It is better to consult with a doctor before ordering a weighted blanket if the patient has additional health issues. For instance,the weight could be a problem for people with respiratory problems . Overall it is a great one-time investment that ensures sound sleep and calmness for the patients.

References

  1. Novak, T., Scanlan, J. and McCaul, D. (2012). Pilot study of a sensory room in an acute inpatient psychiatric unitAustralasian Psychiatry – Theresa Novak, Justin Scanlan, Damien McCaul, Nathan MacDonald, Timothy Clarke, 2012. [online] Journals.sagepub.com. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1039856212459585 [Accessed 2 Oct. 2017].
  2. Mullen, B., Champagne, T., Krihnamurty, S., Dickson, D. and Gao, R. (2008). Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05 [Accessed 1 Oct. 2017].
  3. Alz.org. (2017). Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer’s Association. [online] Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp [Accessed 1 Oct. 2017].