Caregiving and Nighttime Challenges

Caregiving and Nighttime Challenges

Caregiving and Nighttime Challenges

Many things can cause sleep disturbances for elderly people. Dementia, bodily pain, overactive bladder, and schedule irregularities are some examples. If you are a family caregiver, your sleep may also be impacted since you may have to respond to your loved one. Perhaps you have gotten into the habit of sleeping less at night because you are concerned about your loved one’s behaviors. Any kind of habitual sleeplessness like this is considered insomnia and must be addressed. Fortunately, there are certain things to be aware of so you and your loved one can get more sleep. Below we will share some common challenges that might impact you and your loved one’s sleep and what you can do to address these problems.

  • Alzheimer’s and related dementias: Many seniors with a degenerative neurological disorder experience sleeplessness. Sometimes behavioral problems accompany sleeplessness, which is known as “sundowning.” There can be many causes that result in these symptoms[1]:
    • Exhaustion
    • Changes in Circadian rhythm
    • Poor lighting and unfamiliar shadows that cause people with Alzheimer’s to misinterpret their surroundings as something unfamiliar and harmful. This may cause them to become afraid or confused.
    • Negative reactions to family caregivers if they are stressed
    • Bad dreams

Caregivers can address these problems by being mindful of common disturbances or behaviors that contribute to sleeplessness. For instance, caregivers can maintain good lighting in their loved one’s environment and ensure that the environment is comfortable. Keep in mind that caffeine and other stimulants can influence your loved one’s sleeping pattern, also. Lastly, maintaining a consistent schedule of activities, esp. a bedtime, can help your loved one sleep more regularly.

  • Bodily Pain: Aging can often result in a lot of bodily aches and pains. You should talk to a doctor if they recommend any accommodations to help your body. Such accommodations can be comfortable footwear, a mattress topper, or certain cushions. Your doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help alleviate joint pain.
  • Using the bathroom during the night: This may also be a cause to visit your doctor to ensure that you or your loved one does not have a urinary tract infection or any other condition. If your loved one is waking up constantly to use the bathroom, and if you ruled out any underlying conditions, then you may consider buying a bedside commode. Using a commode may be a more convenient toileting method for you and your loved one.
  • Physical inactivity: Many times, a lack in physical activity can cause people to awake at night. This is especially the case if inactive people are napping during the day. To avoid your loved one napping, try to take them on small strolls around the neighborhood (if possible) or encourage activities in the afternoon, like bathing or going to doctors’ appointments. In other words, try to help your loved one avoid sleeping in the afternoons.

If you and/or your loved on are experiencing sleeping issues, it is suggested to go and see a doctor. He or she will know the best course of action to take. We recommend that you give priority to these matters since sleep is perhaps the most important thing for your mental, physical, and emotional health. ElderCare at Home wants to help. If you have any more questions, then please call us at 888-285-0093 or visit our website.

[1] This list was provided by: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-sleep-issues-sundowning.asp

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