Tips To Help Manage Dementia Sleep Problems
There are ways to help your loved on get a better nights sleep, Hashmi says.
Avoid things that disrupt sleep.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar near bedtime.
- Avoid over-the-counter sleep aids. Instead, Hashmi suggests you talk to a doctor about whether melatonin might help your loved one sleep.
- Remove electronics from the bedroom.
Create a routine that supports sleep.
- Make sure your loved one gets enough daytime light to help with circadian rhythms.
- Change into comfortable clothing, signaling nighttime.
- Consider warm milk, a hot shower, relaxing music or reading before bed.
- Pick a bedtime not too late and stick with it every night.
How You Can Help
Let the person help with everyday tasks, such as:
These can lead to increased confusion and make the symptoms of dementia worse.
Common food-related problems include:
- forgetting what food and drink they like
- refusing or spitting out food
- asking for strange food combinations
These behaviours can be due to a range of reasons, such as confusion, pain in the mouth caused by sore gums or ill-fitting dentures, or swallowing problems .
Dont Counter Aggressive Behavior
People with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s may become aggressive in response to the environment. Bath time is often when the aggressive behavior is displayed. The caregivers and/or family member’s approach may also play a part. Rushing, speaking harshly, or forcing a person may result in an aggressive response. When someone with memory loss displays aggressive behavior, it is a form of communication. It may be the only way a person has left to say, Pay attention to me! I don’t want to take a bath! When someone is communicating vigorously, it is the caregivers and/or family member’s job to respect that communication. Hitting, kicking, or biting are ways of saying, stop. The appropriate response is to stop. That doesnt mean not to try again in five minutes or a half an hour.
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Understand Why Someone With Dementia Says Mean Things
First, its important to understand why this hurtful behavior is happening.
Dementia is a brain disease that causes parts of the brain to shrink and lose their function, resulting in cognitive impairment.
These different parts control functions like memory, personality, behavior, and speech. Dementia also damages the ability to control impulses, which means actions arent intentional.
Even though its difficult, do your best to remember that they truly dont intend the mean things they say.
These mean comments and hurtful accusations often happen because the person is unable to express whats actually bothering them.
Working to accept the fact that theyre not doing this on purpose helps reduce stress and makes their behavior easier to manage.
The overall strategy is to take a deep breath, remind yourself that its not personal, take care of immediate discomfort or fear, and try to find the cause behind the behavior.
Next, look for long-term solutions that will help you get the support and rest you need to keep your cool in challenging situations like these.
Getting Out And About
It is very important to continue with activities that you enjoy. Some carers say that they feel guilty when they leave the house or enjoy an activity without the person they are caring for. Yet families and carers have the right to follow their own interests outside their caring role. In fact, it is essential that they do so. A carer who has regular time away will be a better carer.
If you have trouble coping with feelings of guilt about getting out and about, it may be a good idea to talk these feelings over with a supportive friend or relative, your doctor or a counsellor at Carers Victoria or Dementia Australia.
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Do Not Shy Away From Asking For Help
No one may have all the answers especially when it comes to taking care of a person with dementia. Try doing research on how their behavior changes and what needs to be done to help them live their lives without too many complications. Hire help when it becomes too much as it also ensures that you do not become too frustrated or drained. When you have multiple family members who can help, ask everyone to pitch in and look after the patient so that you can get some personal space to breathe and re-energize when it is your time to look after the patient. When you feel like you can no longer look after your loved one at your own home, it may be time to consider assisted living. In such case, look into dementia care homes that can provide specially trained professionals.
Dont Forget The Children And Teens
With so much focus on the person who has dementia, sometimes younger family members donât get the attention they need, or the illness is not explained in a way they can understand.
Children often experience a wide range of emotions when a parent or grandparent has Alzheimerâs disease. Younger children may be fearful that they will get the disease or that they did something to cause it. Teenagers may become resentful if they must take on more responsibilities or feel embarrassed that their parent or grandparent is âdifferent.â College-bound children may be reluctant to leave home.
Reassure young children that they cannot âcatchâ the disease from you. Be straightforward about personality and behaviour changes. For example, the person with Alzheimerâs may forget things, such as their names, and say and do things that may embarrass them. Assure them that this is not their fault or intentional, but a result of the disease.
Find out what their emotional needs are and find ways to support them, such as meeting with a counsellor who specializes in children with a family member diagnosed with Alzheimerâs disease. School social workers and teachers can be notified about what the children may be experiencing and be given information about the disease. Encourage children and teens to attend support group meetings, and include them in counselling sessions.
Here are some examples that might help you cope with role changes within the family:
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Tips For Communicating With Your Parent
- Avoid power struggles. Dont push, nag or harangue your parents. Making ultimatums will only get their backs up, and yelling, arguing or slamming doors could seriously damage the relationship. Laura Ellen Christian, 15 Expert Tips for When Your Aging Parents Won’t Listen, The Arbor Company Twitter:
- Ask about your loved one’s preferences. Does your loved one have a preference about which family member or what type of service provides care? While you might not be able to meet all of your loved one’s wishes, it’s important to take them into consideration. If your loved one has trouble understanding you, simplify your explanations and the decisions you expect him or her to make.
Try To Introduce Care And Support Gradually
If youre arranging care at home, it can be helpful to introduce this idea gradually. It might be easier for the person to understand if you talk about getting some help more generally. If the person is reluctant to have help at home, talk to a homecare agency or your local adult social services team about this.
It might be possible for them to arrange a trial period or to gradually build up visits. This can help to develop the relationship between the person with dementia and the homecare assistant. It may help the person accept the amount of help they need, whether this is help with taking medication, household tasks or personal care.
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Caring For A Person With Lewy Body Dementia
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As someone caring for a person with Lewy body dementia , you will take on many different responsibilities over time. You do not have to face these responsibilities alone. Many sources of help are available, from adult day centers and respite care to online and in-person support groups.
Below are some actions you can take to adjust to your new roles, be realistic about your situation, and care for yourself.
Maintain A Sense Of Humor
Indeed, humor is important for any person looking after a loved one or client with dementia.
Tell jokes when possible being careful not to do this at the persons expense.
Laughter has been known to be therapeutic for many people. Studies also confirm that it is beneficial to those with memory loss.
Laughing makes a person forget about their troubles for a while because it acts as a stress reliever. Laughter can also help relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling like someones caretaker.
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Repeating The Same Question Or Activity
Repeating the same question or activity may be a result of memory loss where the person cannot remember what they’ve said or done.
It can be frustrating for the carer, but it’s important to remember that the person is not being deliberately difficult.
- be tactful and patient
- help the person find the answer themselves, for example, if they keep asking the time, buy an easy-to-read clock and keep it in a visible place
- look for any underlying theme, such as the person believing they’re lost, and offer reassurance
- offer general reassurance, for example, that they do not need to worry about that appointment as all the arrangements are in hand
- encourage someone to talk about something they like talking about, for example, a period of time or an event they enjoyed
Caregiving In The Late Stages Of Alzheimers Or Dementia
As Alzheimers or another dementia reaches the late stages, your loved one will likely require 24-hour care. They may be unable to walk or handle any personal care, have difficulty eating, be vulnerable to infections, and no longer able to express their needs. Problems with incontinence, mood, hallucinations, and delirium are also very common.
In your role as caregiver, youll likely be combining these new challenges with managing painful feelings of grief and loss and making difficult end-of-life decisions. You may even be experiencing relief that your loved ones long struggle is drawing to an end, or guilt that youve somehow failed as a caregiver. As at the other stages of your caregiving journey, its important to give yourself time to adjust, grieve your losses, and gain acceptance.
Since the caregiving demands are so extensive in the later stages, it may no longer be possible for you to provide the necessary care for your loved one alone. If the patient needs total support for routine activities such as bathing, dressing, or turning, you may not be strong enough to handle them on your own. Or you may feel that youre unable to ease their pain or make them as comfortable youd like. In such cases, you may want to consider moving them to a care facility such as a nursing home, where they can receive high levels of both custodial and medical care.
Connecting in the late stages of care
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Dont Neglect Your Own Needs
By always focusing so diligently on your loved ones needs throughout the progression of their dementia, its easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your own welfare. If youre not getting the physical and emotional support you need, you wont be able to provide the best level of care, and youre more likely to become overwhelmed and suffer burnout.
Plan for your own care. Visit your doctor for regular checkups and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of excessive stress. Its easy to abandon the people and activities you love when youre mired in caregiving, but you risk your health and peace of mind by doing so. Take time away from caregiving to maintain friendships, social contacts, and professional networks, and pursue the hobbies and interests that bring you joy.
Tip : Pursue Activities That Bring You Meaning And Joy
Having Alzheimers or another dementia doesnt mean your life has to stop moving forward. By pursuing meaningful activities and relationships, you can continue to nourish your spirit and find pleasure and purpose in life.
Even when symptoms advance and certain activities become difficult, you can still find other ways to nurture and enrich your spirit. If you can no longer paint, for example, you may still be able to visit museums and appreciate the art of others. Or if you can no longer cook, you may still be able to devise the menu and help shop for ingredients.
While we all have different ways of experiencing meaning and joy, you may want to:
Pursue your favorite hobbies and interests. Engaging in activities that are important to you can help maintain your identity as well as enrich your life. Try taking a class or joining a club to keep your interest growing or to explore new activities.
Build your legacy. In the early stages of dementia, many people are mindful of how they want to be remembered. Maybe you want to pass on your skills and knowledge to others, or leave a record of your life for your grandchildren to enjoy. You might want to create photo albums, write your memoirs or a how-to book, share your favorite recipes, make a record of family traditions, or research your family history. Or perhaps you simply want to spend time with your closest loved ones to create new memories.
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The Alzheimers And Dementia Care Journey
Caring for someone with Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia can be a long, stressful, and intensely emotional journey. But youre not alone. In the United States, there are more than 16 million people caring for someone with dementia, and many millions more around the world. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimers or dementia, it is often your caregiving and support that makes the biggest difference to your loved ones quality of life. That is a remarkable gift.
However, caregiving can also become all-consuming. As your loved ones cognitive, physical, and functional abilities gradually diminish over time, its easy to become overwhelmed, disheartened, and neglect your own health and well-being. The burden of caregiving can put you at increased risk for significant health problems and many dementia caregivers experience depression, high levels of stress, or even burnout. And nearly all Alzheimers or dementia caregivers at some time experience sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and exhaustion. Seeking help and support along the way is not a luxury its a necessity.
Just as each individual with Alzheimers disease or dementia progresses differently, so too can the caregiving experience vary widely from person to person. However, there are strategies that can aid you as a caregiver and help make your caregiving journey as rewarding as it is challenging.
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Preserving Your Loved Ones Independence
Take steps to slow the progression of symptoms. While treatments are available for some symptoms, lifestyle changes can also be effective weapons in slowing down the diseases progression. Exercising, eating and sleeping well, managing stress, and staying mentally and socially active are among the steps that can improve brain health and slow the process of deterioration. Making healthy lifestyle changes alongside your loved one can also help protect your own health and counter the stress of caregiving.
Help with short-term memory loss. In the early stages, your loved one may need prompts or reminders to help them remember appointments, recall words or names, keep track of medications, or manage bills and money, for example. To help your loved one maintain their independence, instead of simply taking over every task yourself, try to work together as a partnership. Let your loved one indicate when they want help remembering a word, for example, or agree to check their calculations before paying bills. Encourage them to use a notebook or smartphone to create reminders to keep on hand.
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Common Causes Of Sleep Problems In Dementia Patients
Troubled sleep is thought to be a dementia risk factor as well as a behavioral symptom. Here are some factors that may contribute to your loved ones sleep problems:
- Brain changes. Dementia patients have steeper changes in their brains sleep architecture and their circadian rhythms, causing sleep disturbances.
- Over-the-counter medications. Some over-the-counter medications labeled PM can disrupt sleep by making patients sleep for a bit but then making them more confused or sleepy at the wrong time, Hashmi says.
- Diet. Caffeine, excess sugar , and alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns, Hashmi says.
- Electronic screens. The blue light from a computer, portable electronic devices, and television screens can delay sleep and disturb sleep patterns, Hashmi says.
Why Not Try This
Challenging dementia behaviors can be super-stressful. This basic approach can help stretch your patience and move you both toward a more peaceful quality of life.
Best of all, you can start using the Why-This, Try-This approach right away, even if youve been responding differently before.
To make these steps simple to refer to, Ive compiled a free downloadable PDF, 7 Steps to Managing Difficult Dementia Behaviors Without Medication, A Surviving Alzheimers Cheatsheet.
Get Your Free Managing Dementia Behaviors Cheatsheet.
Questions, suggestions, or try tips that work well for you? Please post them below!
Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimers: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers . You can learn more at survivingalz.com.
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