Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – Simplifying Nighttime Caregiving
Many health conditions can prompt seniors to get up during the night. Overactive bladder, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain and insomnia are just a few of the conditions that might plague seniors and cause them to wake up multiple times every night. And when they require assistance during these waking episodes, your own sleep becomes fragmented.
Here are tips to make nighttime caregiving a little easier on you:
- Frequent bathroom use
If a loved one formerly slept through the night but has begun getting up to use the bathroom frequently, you might want to consult his or her doctor to make sure the senior does not have a urinary tract infection or some other treatable condition. If an infection has been ruled out and the senior simply needs to empty his or her bladder frequently at night, then you might streamline the process by adding a portable bedside commode.
- Chronic pain
Aging often brings with it a host of aches and pains. If the pain is ongoing, try using pillows, a foam mattress topper or even an adjustable bed to help the senior find a comfortable sleeping position. A mattress topper may add softness that relieves pressure point pain. And an adjustable bed, the ultimate sleeping comfort item, might provide general pain relief.
Insomnia occurs more frequently in seniors, though researchers aren’t quite sure why. Sometimes medications can trigger insomnia, so if a senior family member suddenly begins having trouble sleeping through the night you might want to consult his or her doctor for an evaluation.
If a senior loved one wakes frequently, make sure the bedroom contains a comfortable chair and low-level lights for reading or another non-stimulating activity like knitting or completing crossword puzzles. Avoid using tablet computers or cell phones during these episodes.
- Alzheimer’s disease
Many seniors with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia engage in rummaging behavior during the night. While you may not be able to eliminate this behavior entirely, you can strive to manage the situation and get the senior returned to bed by:
- Removing all dangerous objects like scissors from the rummaging area.
- Creating a safe rummage bag, drawer or even room (like a walk-in closet). The rummage bag should include the types of item the senior seems to enjoy sorting through. Often this includes clothing, like socks. Observe the senior’s behavior to get a sense of what types of objects they like to handle, and include these in the bag.
- When the senior awakens to rummage at night, direct him or her to the designated bag, drawer or room. Do not disturb the rummaging. Keep lights low.
You give so much through caregiving, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your sleep. Family caregivers who experience chronic sleeplessness face a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions. By using the above tips to manage a senior loved one’s waking episodes as efficiently as possible, you create more healthy sleep opportunities for everyone.
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