August 31, 2010
Bedtime (Sleep Patterns & Caregiver’s Respite):
Being the caregiver of an Alzheimer’s patient, there will be nights when your loved one just won’t turn in for bed early enough. Soon exhaustion has overwhelmed you. You’re afraid to close your eyes because you just never know what could happen next.
People afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease sometimes get their sleep patterns turned upside down. Caregivers can run into a dilemma when patients start sleeping later in the day. You don’t want to wake them because it’s probably the only peace and quiet you’ll have all day, but the longer they sleep, the longer your day will last. I suggest opening the curtains so sunlight enters their room. This will help regulate their circadian cycle, also known as the biological clock. Sunshine deficiency can play an enormous role in depression and this could be what disrupted their sleep patterns.
I continue to stress how important it is to keep a routine lifestyle with Alzheimer’s patients. This is also true regarding their sleep habits. Try to keep their bedtime as consistant as possible.
Talk to their physician. Medications might help the situation. A few years ago I asked my dad’s doctor to prescribe something to help him sleep. He was then getting in the habit of staying awake ’til 1:00-2:00 a.m. and it was just about killing me. The problem with the pills was that they were affecting his balance and he was becoming dangerously unsteady. I feared he’d fall during a nightly trip to the bathroom, so within the first week we had stop the pills. (That is until he finally digressed into the latter stage of the disease.) You have to weigh the good and the bad. Every patient reacts differently and that which worked yesterday and today might not work tomorrow.
Common sense tells you to avoid caffeine after morning hours. Well, many senior citizens are in the habit of enjoying a cup of coffee or tea after their evening dinner. Simply switch to a decaffeinated version. They don’t have to know.
It’s so important that the caregiver gets his or her share of rest. If you start your day already worn out it will be a no-win situation. Call someone for respite sitting, at least for a couple of hours, so you can take a nap. It’s that important. Best advice: it’s imperative to keep patients in a routine. Activity during the day, whether physical or mental, will help them sleep through the night. If they’re wide awake during the middle of the night, this could lead to wandering. Not good.
In my father’s case, one of the reasons he didn’t want to go to bed was anxiety and nervousness. He developed a fear of being alone. You might want to try sitting with your patient until he or she falls asleep. Unfortunately, once you start this you might not be able to stop.
One of the main goals of the caregiver should be finding a way to have enough rest. Everything depends on it.