If your elderly parent is living with Alzheimer’s disease, it is likely that you have noticed increased changes in their sleep patterns. Issues with sleep are common among elderly adults, but those who also deal with Alzheimer’s disease are even more likely to deal with these problems. This can cause your parent to suffer from daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation that puts them at risk of health complications, and nighttime wakefulness that could put them in danger of increased wandering, falls, and other serious issues. Finding ways to help your loved one cope with these sleep problems helps to support their health and wellbeing, and encourage them to live a higher quality of life as they age in place.
Use these tips to help you deal with the sleep problems that are common with Alzheimer’s disease:
• Focus on light changes. The brain is wired to respond to changes in light with the sleep-wake cycle. Bright lights help to stimulate the mind and create wakefulness, while lowering lighting promotes the release of hormones that relax the body and ease your parent into sleep. In the morning hours, expose your parent to bright light for several hours. Natural light is best, but if you do not have access to strong enough natural light, talk to your parent’s doctor about light box therapy. In the evening, gradually lower the lights to help ease them into restfulness.
• Avoid alcohol. Alcohol contributes to further confusion, disorientation, and lack of judgment. It can also increase balance and mobility issues. Discourage your parent from drinking alcohol, particularly in the evening. If they are insistent about having a drink because it is something familiar to them, try suggesting an alcohol-free version of beer or serving them a caffeine free soda or tea in a cocktail glass.
• Limit caffeine. There are many studies that are now showing that drinking coffee regularly can have a variety of benefits for your parent’s health. This does not mean, however, that the caffeine might not also cause problems. Try switching your parent to a decaffeinated version of coffee to limit caffeine that can keep them awake at night. If they still prefer the caffeinated version, limit it to only the morning hours and offer decaffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening.
• Change their nap routine. Many elderly adults experiencing daytime sleepiness and may need naps during the day. Try to avoid these naps because they can keep your parent from getting the sleep that they need at night. If your parent absolutely needs some rest during the day, change up their routine. Encourage them to rest on the couch or in a chair rather than in bed. This will limit the length of their nap and keep up with the conditioning of having their bed for long lengths of sleep.
• Create a nighttime routine. Encourage your parent to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer with a set bedtime routine. This should include activities that are calming and relaxing so that they can ease your parent into sleep. Consider utilizing the services of an elderly care provider to maintain this routine if you are not able to be in the home with your parent at night. This elderly home care services provider can be with your parent in the evening and through the night to help them get to sleep and keep them safer should they get up before morning.