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5 Steps to a Better Night's Sleep

17 Comments

I agree with Cat. This is a fine article, but it doesn't really target the caregiver audience.

If your spouse has alzheimers(and is a night wanderer) none of the above work

Hi Sweetie, your story sounds very much like my own, and I'm sure many others of us out there! I also have two siblings, both sisters who live no more than 10 minutes away each. One has a grown child, but that is all. Neither are married, and both have LOTS of money! Like you I am disabled with multiple problems. I have almost no money, but I do live in my dads home with him. It is only he that I care for as my mother passed many years ago. However, he has a multitude of problems including end stage kidney failure (goes to dialysis 3x a week), congestive heart, vascular disease and arrhythmia. Dr.s appts ALL the time which I take him to. I am going 24/7 watching him slowly die. I adore my dad, but sometimes I feel like getting in my car and just driving away forever! I get ZERO support from either of my sisters. As a matter of fact they have loathed me my whole life, and now when we should be united for my father who has been the most wonderful dad three girls could have, they are critical, mean, selfisf, do not offer to help, and if asked say "NO", and do not visit dad. They make me sick, but dwelling on it only makes it worse. Not sleeping is a HUGE factor as well. I also have that problem, and feel like the walking dead during the day. It almost feels like walking through a miserable mudd. Something that helped me a bit was going into the hospital for a few days last summer! When I visited my Regular GP for my annual checkup, I started telling her how I felt and fell absolutely to pieces. She made me go to the hospital because she was worried for my mental health. Well . . . the two selfish ones had no choice but to come and take over, and I spent 5 glorious days sleeping...real sleeping! This was a great psychiatric hospital we have here in R.I. where I'm from called Butler Hospital. Imagine that it gets so bad that a hospital feels like heaven! Do you have a friend that lives a little far from you that you could visit for a week or two? If so, just announce that you are going; DO NOT ASK...say you are going for a rest, period. Tell them when you are leaving and just go. Actually, you can go somewhere close to home and just say you're going away. If they have a crumb of care for your parents they will be forced to do your job while you are gone. Too many of us simply assume that if we are not there everything will fall apart...not true. Also, if your parents have medicare they are entitled to free nursing services even if you are there. Check into all services that are available to you. Dig, dig, dig, services of all types including government services are available. You said you are disabled; call a disability advocate (just call SS and say you would like one), and try to see if there are any options for you. Forget about groups. They usually only meet once or twice a month. We need twice a week help!!!!! Also, do NOT feel guilty or angry because you can't get everything done. If you don't feel like cleaning some days...don't. Cooking, same thing. They aren't going to die if you give them a can of soup, or a frozen dinner. In fact they might like it! My dad likes the frozen mac and cheese, and it takes two minutes in the mic. You are doing Gods work, but if you are exhausted you can't do your best. Take a long walk every day and breathe in the fresh air. Look at the birds, trees or whatever kind of nature is near you even if you live in a city. Birds are everywhere. Nature is more healing than anything in the world. If there are things, small chores etc. that your parents are capable of doing, ask them to do them. Do not just do it all if they can help a little. My dad is very independent even though he's sick. Even though carrying a bag could kill him, at least he has the feeling that he is still useful. Do not forget that these are the people who nurtured you, and it makes them feel good to be part of the life they once provided. They are going to die at some point, and probably sooner than later. My therapist whom I see once a week (another good idea for you), always tells me "Remember this is not forever...it will end, and you will feel so great to know you were the one who cared for and loved them enough to be there." Most importantly though, is know you are NOT alone! We are out here, and there are thousands of us in the exact same boat. You are a child of the Universe, and you will be protected by your angels. Call upon them when things feel hopeless...I promise you they are there. I've met a couple of mine!!!!! LOVE AND LIGHT, a fellow angel

It's 5:28 AM and I am not asleep. I should be. I need to be. But I am here in front of the computer reading Agingcare.com. My situation is similar to others here (especially the first poster) in that I have two siblings with their own family health problems. My siblings, however, want to be helpful even if it isn't really enough any more. I am living with my mother in her house as she quickly deteriorates from Alzheimers. She also has had open heart surgery (triple by-pass) and has a pacemaker. My source of income is pretty feeble - I am an adjunct assistant professor with UMUC and teach online classes (when I can get them) for this university. Adjuncts are not paid well compared to other careers and we don't (usually) get benefits. I am also an artist trying to earn a living through my art. This means I have to pay attention to not only creating art but also to the business aspects of being a self-representing artist. I also suffer from severe chronic depression successfully controlled with 5-HTP.

I recognize that I am in a better position than some people and a worse one than others. I am scared of ending up living on the street, of my mother becoming less cognizant, (a foregone conclusion at this point), of my mother dying, (another foregone conclusion given that this is part of the life cycle though not one any of us wants to consider), of being unable to take care of everything I need to take care of, of everything falling apart.

I have never been a good sleeper, needing at least nine hours of sleep (much like Picasso, I suppose) since I was very young and getting only about five to six hours, now, for a long time. And I can't shut my door. I need to be able to wake up instantly should my mother need any kind of help. We do not have the finances to afford paid help and apparently we don't qualify for any state assistance (as far as I can tell).

I wonder if naps would help. At least I could be more effective if I wasn't sleepy when I was awake. Wow. I got a lot more precise than I intended. Additionally, I agree with the person who asks for an article on better sleep geared towards us caregivers who don't have many of those options at hand. Really? "Close the door?" We should ignore the one(s) we are caring for? Should a new mother ignore her hungry infant because it disturbs her sleep? This is the same sort of thing. We are caring for someone or more than one someone who needs our attentiveness. Better would be reprints of articles geared to new mothers.

I also have a problem with getting enough sleep, so I am looking into respite care with my mother. I called the Alzheimer's Society, and they were very helpful with recommendations of facilities I could put my mother in for 7 to 31 days.

As for you mom's cought, may I suggest that you give her cough medicine before she goes to sleep, and a couple of times during the day to help with the coughing?

You (or one of your siblings) might also get her headphones for the TV, if it's she who needs to be watching/listening to it. (I know many older people are comforted by the sound of the TV.)

Good luck.

Hi mitzi, it would be interesting to know how the retraining works without medications, as I don't even take an aspirin. I'm not a good sleeper, and haven't been forever, to recollection. Something in the stress how I was raised.

I'm praying for readjustment as soon as I get this paperwork done. But then I'm constantly readjusting with each new diagnosis, crisis, set back, etc. Isn't that just life? I look forward to a heavenly home and everlasting rest. (But today, a few hours uninterrupted would be nice...lol) Take care, and happy dreaming.

Well maybe you know of some suggestions to aid in the reconditioning of getting REM sleep? I know for myself I've had to take sleeping pills which sometimes my mind is racing too much I still can't sleep.

I know a doctoral candidate who is doing a sleep study on this and offered to help retrain me to sleep, but I don't have a week to spare. Funny isn't it?

I just think once we step away its just a matter of time to readjust. Sadly my time is well into two years now, but sometimes it just is what it is.

I think this would be a wonderful opportunity to introduce such an article based on the input from those here don't you think?

When will someone write an article specifically about caregivers, stress and sleep? We don't fit the normal mold even for stress. Not only do we have stress, but we have trained ourselves or force ourselves to be alert & wake up for caregiving duties. We all know that caregiving wrecks sleep cycles, deprives us of REM sleep and eventually is what leads so many of us to burnout. Lack of REM sleep takes its toll on the whole body - not just our moods. Unfortunately most of the solutions in this article sound great, but don't necessarily fit my caregiver life.

The best things I have personally found are to use a fan for white noise - you can still hear if you have to wake up; try to keep your room cooler than usual; nap if you can during the day; and watch your diet. Melatonin helps, but there are foods high in tryptophan that can do the same thing. All that and of course if I can't sleep reading Agingcare posts before bed - thats what works for me.

Sirfrank, you simply may be exhausted, or you may be experiencing a sleep disorder which needs to be diagnosed medically? Have you told your doctor your symptoms? If you are medically clear, then maybe you just need to take more power naps, get some daily exercise, like a brisk walk each day, if you can't sleep a solid 6-8 hours each night? Uninterrupted sleep is a challenge for some of us caregivers.

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Dear Sidney, I went to your wall to give you a hug. After reading your profile, I realized that you probably wouldn't consider sending Mom somewhere for care. Would it be possible to have someone come in at night, to help monitor your mother, while you get some much needed rest? Your sleep and health is every bit as important as protecting hers. It is clear you love your mother, and probably will dismiss some of these suggestions. Many people make excuses for their choices, based on emotional needs, and for other reasons. But you've already acknowledged your behavior and Mom's condition is negatively impacting your health. Sounds like you need to make some changes. Here's a gentle reminder, and permission! This is too serious to ignore. Just some thoughts... Take care!