We all know how soothing a warm blanket can be. They are widely used in the healthcare industry during hospital stays and emergency transport to comfort patients. But could they be used in a long-term care setting to change pain, agitation, mood or medication use?

Director of Research Dr. Christine Kovach and her team set out to find out. Noting there was no known published data surrounding the topic, the research team began implementing a quality improvement project in August to test their hypothesis. Care teams at Ovation Jewish Home offered residents warm blankets as a possible first-line solution for pain and agitation. Nearly a quarter of residents received a warmed blanket over the one-month study period.

For Kovach, the results were astounding. Three indicators of pain — number of pain complaints, severity of pain, and the number of non-scheduled analgesics given for breakthrough pain — all decreased over the month for those who received the blankets. “The fact that three measures were so affected is really thrilling,” said Dr. Kovach.

Agitation levels also decreased over the short-term for residents who were given a blanket due to agitated behaviors. “There is interest across the industry in reducing the use of medication in certain circumstances because of adverse effects. This is the first step in providing evidence that an alternative intervention can work.”

Hand in Hand funded the purchase and installation of the blanket warmers. A research paper outlining project results has been submitted to Pain Management Nursing for possible publication.