Dementia and Night Wandering

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A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia brings its own unique set of challenges apart from typical aging issues. This class of disease robs one of their mental capacity while leaving their physical body unscathed. The result is someone who may be physically strong and healthy, but without the ability to reason, make good decisions, or even communicate their wants or needs to their caregiver. Aging brings its own challenges with advancing years. Loss of flexibility makes us more vulnerable to falls, changes in dietary needs may make us gain or lose weight to unhealthy levels, and reduced ability to see or hear further limits our connection to the world we live in. Add to this the confusion and frustration of dealing with dementia and you have a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.

One common fear most of us have as we age is the danger of falling, especially at night in the dark. As we age, we may get up in the night for bathroom needs or a drink of water. When someone with Alzheimer’s disease feels these urges they might not remember where the bathroom is, or what to do when they get there. If they begin to wander at night as the disease progresses, they could end up injuring themselves badly if they trip and fall.

Does this possibility prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep? If so, you’re not alone. It’s quite reasonable to fear your mom or dad will become a victim of their nocturnal rambling in the dark. If this worry disrupts your sleep patterns, you could end up getting sick yourself and become unable to provide the care they need. Many family caregivers struggle with getting enough rest when their loved one becomes a night wanderer, but there are things you can do to make the situation safer and more conducive to helping you sleep through the night.

For starters, you might put a baby monitor in your loved one’s room so you will hear them when they get up at night. There is also technology that puts sensors under the mattress or on the floor beside the bed that will emit an alarm when the sleeper gets out of bed. And if you really need to sleep through the night, you could ask a family member or hire a professional caregiver to sit up at night outside your loved one’s bedroom door so they can intercept the wanderer and help them get resettled in the night. Here are more suggestions for managing wandering both at night and during the day. It’s true that the better you can rest, the better care you can give.

Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about losing sleep over things that go bump in the night.

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