Reprinted with permission from The Republican
Hospital trying blanket therapy
By Patricia Norris
Source: The Republican (Springfield, MA)
Friday,April 28, 2006
Edition: ALL, Section: HEALTH & SCIENCE, Page E01
Cooley-Dickinson Hospital is seeking alternatives to psychiatric patient restraints.
NORTHAMPTON – It’s an uncommon offering. But when agitated patients are admitted to the psychiatric ward at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, clinicians offer them weighted blankets. Researchers at the hospital are finding that the fleece and cotton comforters, which can be made to weigh up to 30 pounds, soothe patients. Although an unusual treatment for adult patients, the tool is commonly used with children who may have autism or other sensory disorders. Cooley Dickinson staff hope the blanket use will help cut down on restraints and other procedures formerly used to calm patients who are at risk of harming themselves or others. Toby Fisher, president of the Massachusetts Alliance for the Mentally Ill, was unaware of the blanket method, but he said he welcomed any tool that would help do away with restraints. “Any time restraints are used it is a treatment failure,” he said. “We should always try possible alternatives.”
Although the blankets don’t work for everyone, Tina Champagne, a hospital occupational therapist, said a few repeat visitors to the ward request blankets on admission. For those patients, other restraint techniques were used in the past, she said. “It is something about pressure. They are able to stay more calm,” Champagne said.
Before trying out the blankets in the inpatient ward, Champagne organized a study of 32 volunteers outside the hospital in March 2005 to establish safety parameters, she said. That study was followed up with an inpatient documentation in the winter at Cooley-Dickinson’s 24-bed unit where patient blood pressure, pulse rate and oxygenation were measured. Champagne, registered nurse Debra Dickson, and researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst mechanical engineering department are conducting a third study that will look at the calming response of the blanket and the correlation with body temperatures. She hopes to publish the findings in the Occupational Therapy and Mental Health Issues journal.
Champagne was aware that the use of weighted blankets for children was effective and got the idea to offer it to adults after the state Department of Mental Health urged facilities to reduce restraint use, she said. “This is something people do want to try, and they like it because it allows them to help themselves,” she said. The one restriction is that a patient cannot walk around with the blanket. They must sit or lie down, Champagne said. Many of the patients like the blankets because they respond to the deep pressure touch, the warmth or touch of the fabric. Patients have reported the blankets feel like a, “big hug,” Champagne said.
CUTLINE: (COLOR) At Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Nothampton, Tina champagne M.Ed, OTR/L, right, and Deb Dixon, RN, MSN, insert weights into blankets that will be used to treat patients with mental health illness. Victor Petrella, the unit’s nurse manager, is also shown assisting Dickson with the blanket.