Sleep problems can affect people with dementia, but there are ways to smooth the transition from day to night.
- Posted on Jun 14, 2019
After meeting the demands of a long day of caregiving you are ready to relax and refresh. But as you are trying to wind down, you may find that your loved one is doing just the opposite. It is not unusual for dementia symptoms to get worse in the late afternoon and evenings. Your loved one may be mixing up day and nighttime, which can make sleep difficult. He or she may have slept all afternoon, which can also lead to sleep trouble at night. When your loved one isn’t getting a good night’s rest, chances are neither are you, and without quality rest, you cannot be the caregiver you need to be.
There are a number of things you can do, however, to help your loved one ease into nighttime. First, see to it that he or she is evaluated by a physician for the common causes of sleep disturbances that often come with age, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and side effects of medications. Then try the following:
1. Keep your loved one engaged in meaningful activities throughout the day. Head outside for fresh air, take walks, drop into a day center or hire somebody to interact with him or her. These are good ways to avoid excessive napping.
2. Follow a routine so that it becomes a nightly habit. Routines are key to people with dementia. For instance, you could read a story out loud or play the person’s favorite music at bedtime.
3. If your loved one is angry at bedtime it may be a way of expressing a need. Check to see if he or she needs to use the bathroom.
4. Get your loved one laughing and joking before bedtime.
5. Start a tradition of an evening happy hour or herbal tea.
6. Set aside a few moments to sit with your loved one and offer reassurance.
7. Check with a physician regarding medication.
8. Give your loved one pajamas as a gift to unwrap. Encourage him or her to wear them. You could buy new pajamas or simply wrap up some that he or she already has. Either way, they will make bedtime special.