Why do elderly wake up during the night?

Asked by
Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Expert Answer
3930 helpful answers
This is common for many elders, and even more so for people with dementia. It's a good idea to see a doctor so see if a medication adjustment is warranted.
WOW! formercaregiver - my freaking goodness! I am up with the same woman about whom I wrote in 2010 which is when this comment was posted by me. i adore her and will be with her until she dies. Abusive? Reported? Oh my gosh. Obviously you do not know me. At that time, this couple was playing a game which took a toll on all of the caregivers. Getting up at night is 100% acceptable. Getting up 5 or 6 times, drinking copious amounts of water when it's refused during the day, and insisting upon staying up to talk about whether or not my husband likes his job, was abusive to ME. I am their very much-loved caregiver. Well, I was actually the caregiver on duty when the Colonel passed away very peacefully in February 2011. His last words to me were "I love you. You smell good". So, please, PLEASE do not judge another so harshly when you seriously do not know them. I rarely speak out in my own defense, but to be called abusive when I am an eternally patient and devoted caregiver with an un-tarnished reputation just rubs me the wrong way. Please, also, check the date of the comment and then the current status of the caregiver, before indicating that "LEGALLY" someone should be reported for their abuse. I must get off here - blood boiling. Abusive. Wow. Just, wow.
formercaregiver: huh? Rude? Abusive? Saying my elderly clients got up so often in the night it was an impossible situation should be legally reported? To whom, I wonder.

I think Ruth's idea that these situations need an alert caregiver who doesn't expect to sleep for the night shift is sensible.

Those of us who have been around a while know what a compassionate, upbeat caregiver Ruth is. I'd love to have her for my husband.

In these forums we feel free to let our hair down and say things we might not say in front of our clients or loved ones, knowing that other caregivers "get it."

Years ago, while hospitalized for months after a car crash, I was literally up all night because my wounds would "act up" when there was no distraction. Exhausted, I'd fall asleep when the sun peeked over the horizon. At 5:30 am the nurses would wake me up for my vitals; at 6:00, doctor(s) doing their rounds; at 7:00 some phlebotomist. When breakfast came, I was too tired to chew. In a nutshell, my bio clock was off and I had no rhythm.

Ruth, you're an angel. If I were in your shoes I'd have lost it already after the 2nd day. And the words out of my mouth couldn't be translated in any language. I'm not, therefore, going to pick on anyone in this forum. ... Because it takes a hero to be a caregiver.
Ruth, I got a huge laugh out of formercaregiver's post. I loved "Legally you should be reported." Hello, Attorney General's Office? I'd like to report a professional caregiver who complained on a public forum that it is hard to get up multiple times a time with her unnamed client.

I wonder what the penalty is for that? :D
I agree with Carol about seeing the doctor. Sometimes elderly people wake up because they have pain, or need to use the bathroom, but often they are confused and no matter what wakes them up, the confusion becomes the problem. When my father began waking up at night we found a baby monitor was a great way to hear him (and thus avoid falls). It helped to quietly go in and greet him pleasantly, and help him to the bathroom. Then, whatever confused thoughts he was having(I need to pack my bag to go on vacation, my friend is here to pick me up, etc) could be addressed. I always told him it was night time, and he needed his rest,but tried hard to be kind about it. They can come up with some doozies at 3AM! My Dad had trouble walking, but amazingly in the middle of the night he would forget all about that and try to go across the room. The monitor helped me keep him safe.
jeannegibbs and Eddie - thank you for your sweet comments. I apologize for the rant. I actually did not see your comments before I wrote that. You may accuse me of anything - ANYTHING - except abuse. Excuse me, please, for wanting to toss the computer there for a second. I'm okay now.
Lilacalani, personally I think following your dad's natural inclinations is fine. It also is not necessary for him to have three meals, unless he is hungry three times. The concern I'd have is for your health. How are you on this schedule? I'd be great -- I have delayed sleep phase disorder and I'd love that schedule. But for many people preparing and serving supper at 3 AM would not be pleasant. So I think you need to work out a routine that honors your father's needs as far as possible while also respecting your own inner cycles.
I am a paid caregiver. The elderly couple I work with have recently gone to 24-hour, in-home care. Nights are IMPOSSIBLE. No matter what time they go to bed (generally 10:00pm) they are up at 11:30, 2:00, 3:30, 5:00... and with a bit of luck they'll stay silent until 7am after that. Here's the kicker; during the day they use the toilet VERY infrequently (neither has dementia, both are ambulatory although with walkers). WHY do they have to poop and pee all night? I am ready to recommend that they have a care-giving service which provides graveyard care in which the caregiver does not expect to sleep. The man is 90, with prostate cancer, and recently suffered a very mild stroke. The woman is 88, has some heart issues, and arthritis.
I have a bit of trouble with the thought of using Ambien in someone with dementia. I have panic disorder that pokes its ugly head up sometimes. When I was having oral surgery, my endodontist gave me two Ambien to take before coming for the procedure. The result -- I was awake, but my memory was totally wiped out for the entire procedure. Time was not anything relevant. The procedure ended as soon as it began in my mind. If my endodontist gave me Ambien to calm me and wipe out my memory for an event, I wonder about prescribing it for someone with dementia. Would every night be a confusion? I don't know, but I have personal concerns.

Something I have found that works with my mother when she is having a night of ups and downs from the bed. I tuck her in, tell her I love her, and give her a kiss on the forehead. She doesn't get up again. Why, I don't know, but maybe it is because she needs to feel secure and cared for. Strangely enough, it also helps me sleep better.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support