Today we continue our series of Alzheimer’s blogs. Each week we offer
tips to help family caregivers cope with specific behavior that are
commonly associated with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. This
week we take a look at Sleep Disturbances.
For many families,
Alzheimer’s would be more aptly named All-the-timer’s: it doesn’t
follow the clock. Which may be why, at least when it comes to sleeping,
some people with Alzheimer’s don’t either.
At Home Instead Senior Care serving the Southeast Valley,
we have worked with many clients with Alzheimer’s who simply can’t
sleep at night, whether it’s due to getting up repeatedly, evening
behavioral problems, a.k.a. “sundowning,” sleeping at odd hours or night
According to the Alzheimer’s Association,
experts estimate that in late stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals spend
about 40 percent of their time in bed at night awake and a significant
part of their days sleeping. In extreme cases, people may have a
complete reversal of the usual daytime wakefulness-nighttime sleep
pattern. Some of the causes for this include:
• End-of-day exhaustion (both mental and physical)
• An upset in the internal body clock, causing a biological mix-up between day and night
lighting and increased shadows causing people with Alzheimer's to
misinterpret what they see, and become confused and afraid
• Reactions to nonverbal cues of frustration or exhaustion from those caring for them
• Disorientation due to the inability to separate dreams from reality when sleeping
• Less need for sleep, which is common among older adults
course this also results in a poor night of sleep for anyone caring for
a loved one with Alzheimer’s – a deficit that, over time, can lead to
long-term exhaustion, enhanced stress, depression and other health
But there are some things you can do to reduce your senior’s wakefulness in the night.
sure your senior’s home is well lit. Adequate lighting can help reduce
the agitation, disorientation or confusion a senior might feel in a dark
or seemingly unfamiliar environment.
• Keep a schedule. Routine
is important to people with Alzheimer’s. By trying to maintain daily
mealtimes and bedtimes, you can help them feel more secure about what
needs to happen when.
• Avoid stimulants. It probably goes without
saying that alcohol and tobacco products are best avoided, but also
restrict sweets and caffeine consumption to the morning hours and keep
the evening meal light.
• Keep the early part of the day active.
Fill the mornings and early afternoons with any bathing, medical
appointments, exercise and outings and discourage napping, then begin
winding down as evening approaches.
• Identify triggers. Pay
attention to the patterns in your senior’s environment. If a loud
television, having visitors or extra people around or the activity
surrounding evening meals seems to set them off, then how can these
things be avoided?
If your senior is experiencing
sleep loss due to Alzheimer’s, these are some precautions to keep your
senior safe and the evenings less eventful.
• Make sure there is a
nightlight in your senior’s room and consider installing rope lighting
in any hallways or pathways to the bathroom or other rooms your senior
frequents. Also, keep the floor free of tripping hazards.
• Make sure any windows, outside-leading doors and medicine cabinets are locked.
or hide any troublemaking items. For example, if a senior has a habit
of stuffing objects in the toilet, remove these items from the bathroom
before going to bed. If toilet paper is an issue, leave enough for your
senior to use if needed once or twice but not enough to clog your
• Discourage TV, night eating and other activities that will stimulate your senior and keep them up longer.
For more information, please contact Home Instead Senior Care serving the Southeast Valley or Like us on Facebook. We also encourage you to download our Confidence to Care app to your Apple device. This handy resource offers instant tips to manage any situation.
Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.
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