Sleep disorders often go hand in hand with Alzheimer’s disease. This presents a challenge for healthcare workers who provide home care services to seniors. Irregular sleeping patterns and other debilitating symptoms can take a toll on both seniors as well as their caregivers. Despite this, there are ways of promoting healthy sleeping habits among those with Alzheimer’s.

Learn to Recognize the Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative form of dementia. It causes serious memory, thinking and behavioral impairment to those afflicted.

Early symptoms include:

  • Hard time performing multiple tasks and solving problems
  • Losing track of familiar routes
  • Difficulty in recalling names of familiar objects
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of interest in previous hobbies
  • Losing items frequently
  • Change in personality

As the condition progresses, symptoms worsen, making it hard for seniors to cope alone. This is also when sleep problems often arise.

Late symptoms of the brain disorder include:

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Trouble performing routine activities such as dressing, cooking and taking showers
  • Amnesia
  • Personality disorders
  • Withdrawal and depression
  • Anger, hallucinations and agitation
  • Language and speech impediments
  • Loss of literacy

It is often challenging to care for a person with these symptoms. The condition usually overwhelms families, who often opt to send their loved ones to nursing homes. When the senior separates from their family, symptoms may worsen. Nevertheless, irregular sleep habits are manageable by senior care providers.

Ways of Promoting Healthy Sleep for Seniors Living with the Effects of Alzheimer’s

Light therapy:

Exposing seniors to sunlight during the day can boost their sleep at night. Specialized light boxes are available for those who are unable to venture outside their home.

Avoid stimulants:

Doctors forbid intake of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Stimulants interrupt normal sleeping patterns while alcohol and nicotine may trigger anxiety symptoms. The home care specialist may serve the senior with a non-alcoholic beverage in a familiar glass, if he or she insists on drinking.

Plan medications:

During the day, give the patient mind stimulating medications and at night, depressants. Sleeping pills are inadvisable as they may induce confusion and trigger collapse and fainting.

Promote mobility and physical activities:

Walk around the local park with the senior during the day and toss a Frisbee or something similar. Daytime activities create fatigue, making it easier for the senior to sleep soundly at night. However, movements should gradually reduce as evening approaches. Overstimulation may increase the senior’s energy levels, making it hard to rest.

Restrict daytime sleep:

Wake the patient early enough, if you deem that staying in bed throughout the morning will affect sleep patterns. Limit daytime naps to a few hours on the couch or recliner. Do not allow the patient to nap in the evening.

Create a sleeping routine:

Establish bedtime rituals for the senior. Repeating the same activities daily before bedtime creates a habit. For instance, bathing, dressing, brushing teeth, listening to some music and a back or foot rub daily before bedtime can prepare them for sleep.

Seek medication:

Consult the patient’s doctor for help if sleeping problems worsen. Irregular sleeping patterns may be a sign of underlying conditions such as pain, sleep apnea or depression.

Admittedly, seniors with Alzheimer’s, families and senior care providers experience challenges in managing the disease. One of its worst symptoms is interruption of normal sleeping cycles. This can affect family members and caregivers, who need their sleep at night to feel rejuvenated in the morning. The guidelines above will come in handy for family members and home care providers in charge of Alzheimer’s patients.

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

January is Alzheimer’s awareness month in Canada. Alzheimer’s Societies across the country, in association with the Minister of Health and the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, will host “Walk for Memories” events around the country to raise awareness on the condition.

For More Information

Canada’s Alzheimer Society has an informative website called Let’s Face It, which benefits seniors, families, and health care professionals.