Getting Through the Night with Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia

Some common issues for families dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease are sleeplessness, night waking, wandering at night, and confusion during the night time hours. Often, these problems become increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. There are things a caregiver can do to try to alleviate some of these problems, however, and although everything might not work – it may be worth it to try and see what might help your loved one (and help your household have a more peaceful evening).

There are things you can do during the day to try to “set up” a calmer night time: Having a structured, active day is one place to start. By staying active, getting some exercise (a walk is great), and avoiding daytime napping – especially later in the day, a person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia may be more likely to be ready for sleep when bedtime arrives.

Often, an evening routine leading up to bedtime can be helpful. Doing the same activities, in the same order can be calming and establish the expectation that bedtime is on the way. It is particularly effective if things can “wind down” and the person with dementia can relax prior to climbing into bed (If they still enjoy a warm bath or a foot rub, this is a fine activity.) A bedtime snack might be a nice touch as well.

It is important that the house is safe and the loved one with Alzheimer’s or other memory disease is comfortable. If you haven’t already, safety-proof your home by making sure that dangerous items are locked up or put away and that hazards have been cleared. In the instance that night waking is an issue, safety is paramount.

Remember to lock doors, windows, put away keys and try to keep other “triggers” out of sight. As for comfort, make sure bedclothes are warm and appropriate, have extra blankets within reach and make sure the air temperature is comfortable. These are just a few ideas, feel free to experiment and take into account the personality and preferences of your loved one. It might be helpful to discuss the nighttime issues with a doctor or nurse to see if there me other contributing factors or they may have additional ideas to help contribute to a more peaceful night’s rest.

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