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Nurses and volunteers work together to offer calming 'fidget blankets' to patients at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital

January 20, 2020

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Featured (from left to right) are Louann Wolfe, Betty Tanner and Nancy Bordlemay, volunteers in the WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital sewing room, who are creating fidget blankets for patients.

Featured (from left to right) are Louann Wolfe, Betty Tanner and Nancy Bordlemay, volunteers in the WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital sewing room, who are creating fidget blankets for patients.

Patients at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital are now receiving “fidget blankets,” squares of material that feature strips of Velcro, zippers, buckles, ribbons, ruffles and soft fur. Nurses recently began giving the blankets to confused or agitated patients at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital.

The blankets provide a calming diversion to these patients, who often pull at their intravenous lines or are restless and anxious.

WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital employees donated some of the materials, and volunteers in the WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital sewing room created the blankets.

“We have had several patients that have really been helped by these blankets,” said Shannon Sellers, nurse manager of the medical/surgical unit at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. “Some of these patients had to have 1-to-1 sitters, they were so agitated. Giving them something to hold and focus on really does help keep them safer. They are not trying to get out of bed so much. We worry a lot about falls and this seems to help take their mind off where they are.”

Research has found that tactile stimulation helps to improve memory, mood and socialization in patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The blankets, also called busy blankets or fidget quilts, help to provide that tactile stimulation.

In the past, nurses have given patients washcloths to roll, Sellers said, but the fidget blankets offer a variety of textures and activities, such as buckles and zippers, that allow patients to keep their hands busy. The blankets are designed with safety in mind, and so do not have small objects such as beads or pompoms, which could be pulled off.

The hope is that the sewing room can continue to create the blankets for patients, who take the blankets with them after their hospital stay. The project may be extended to other hospitals if that is feasible.