How do you care for a dementia or Alzheimer's parent who suffers from erratic sleep cycles?


My mom can stay up talking to herself ALL night long! She will be angry and yelling at someone, then cry for hours - sometimes giggle here and there and remain awake all the next day! The crying scares me because of the mucus she creates and I'm afraid she will choke. A few days ago I got a sleep aid from the nurse and gave her one at 7pm, she was still awake at 1am that night. Does anyone else experience this? Sometimes she will even sleep all the next day and into the night.

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Hi Kathleen,
I'm afraid this is a common problem. I think the doctor needs to review your mom's medications and then maybe he or she can offer something more effective to break this cycle when it occurs. Sleeping issues (or non-sleeping issues) are one of the most problematic things for family caregivers, since then the caregiver can't sleep either. The exhaustion then becomes a problem for everyone.
Please check with the doctor and see if a medication is keeping her awake, or if there is one to help her sleep when she needs it.
Take care of yourself,
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I went on the Mayo Clinics website and found these suggestions:
1. Light - expose loved one to bright sunlight in the morning..
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
3. Manage medications
4. Physical activity (encourage)
5. Limit daytime sleep
6. Establish daytime routine
7. Treat underlying conditions
Well anyway they expanded on those ideas obviously.
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My mother-in-law lives with us and has alzheimers, late stage. She had trouble with staying awake at night and the dr gave her a combination of Respirodone and zanax to cause her to rest well. Nice.
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Thank you! All good suggestions. I'm also wondering if her chemistry reacts differently to a sleeping pill as well as natural remedies for calming effect or sleep. She tends to become more alert and jumpy for a few hours - or wake with bad dreams. I'll keep experimenting with the help of her doctor and nurses.
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Carol is very right -- sleep problems impact quality of life, because even if the loved one seems to be weathering it OK, the caregiver becomes a sleep-deprived zombie. The bad news is there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The good news is that there are solutions to try under the guidance of a physician who knows all the medications and the medical history. It may be a matter of adjusting current drugs or adding a drug or both. The practices naheaton lsits are good, too, but I think when the sleep cycle is seriously disturbed it will take more than bright morning light to resolve the issue.

This was THE issue that might have landed my husband in a nursing home, because I could not deal with all his other dementia issues if I was a zombie myself. Fortunately a sleep specialist was able to come up with a solution that has worked for us for more than 7 years.

I wish you luck in coming up with a solution, too!
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