"If I could just get a few night's sleep, I think I could deal with the stress of caring for mom." "He gets up and walks around the house, moving stuff all night, I never know what I will find in the morning." "Everyone tells me to take care of myself but I can't rest when I know she is awake and may wander off!"
These statements reflect the concerns of many family caregivers dealing with the neurological changes that often affect dementia patients. During the middle stage of Alzheimer's Disease, about 50% of the patients will show significant changes in sleep/wake patterns. Some patients will sleep too much and others will wake up too frequently,increasing the liklihood of falls, or wandering during the night. Others may yell out, refuse to lie down or rest even when they are exhausted.
Sleep problems and/or incontinence are symptoms that are least tolerated by family caregivers and most likely to cause facility placement. Ideas to deal with sleep problems will be presented at the April 8, 2013 meeting at the Statesboro First Methodist Church Alzheimer's support group meeting.
As over the counter sleep medications have been shown to increase the confusion of dementia patients, only certain prescription medications are recommended by the Alzheimer's Association. Non drug treatments include:Avoid upsetting activities in late afternoon or evening (bathe in morning); Continue or set bed time rituals such as small glass of milk or biscuit before bed; favorite blanket or pillow available; back rub or leg massage at bed time; clear, well lit path to bathroom or use a urinal next to bed (practice using this path during the day);allow the person to sleep in recliner or couch if necessary; place the bed next to a wall so less chance of rolling out of bed;minimize numbers of people and other distractions near bed time; avoid talking about the next day's activities before bed; use more light in early evening to reduce shadows then dim light at bed time to signal sleep time; ask your doctor or pharmacist about meds that may have stimulating effects - don't give those six hours before bedtime if possible; put confounding locks on outside doors; remove dangerous tools, guns, fragile or precious objects and use sound protectors so you can sleep to provide care another day.
Recognize that this problem will gradually diminish as many Alzheimer's patients begin sleeping alot during the later stage of the illness. Come to a support group and talk with others who are dealing with the extraordinary changes in the family environment brought on by these neurological changes in the brain of the impaired person.
If the patient is incontinent, call the Alzheimer's Association during office hours 1-800-272-3900 and ask about the Caring Closet program where you can receive some assistance with needed supplies.For any questions about Alzheimer's or other dementia causing illnesses, call the 24 Hour Help Line number 1-800-272-3900 for free, confidential assistance.
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