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My mother lives alone since we placed my dad in a nursing facility a year and a half ago. We have day time aides coming for her to make sure she eats, takes meds, take her shopping, etc. They also keep an eye on her since she won't tell us if anything is wrong (at one point she stopped eating because of dental issues but since she doesn't like Drs she wouldn't tell us). We installed cameras in her house just so we could keep an eye on her since she has very poor short term memory. I've been noting that she is spending the night in her chair in front of the TV, until early morning hours, like 5 or 6am when she goes to bed. The aides come in at 10 and she is fast asleep. One aid has to wake her up to get in the house but another one lets her sleep until noon. Should we be worried about her sleeping patterns? When she was younger she didn't like being along in the house alone so maybe that's her concern. I would love to hear people's recommendations, do we (my bother and I) try to keep her awake and active during the day or is it OK for her to stay up all night? It' so hard to know which battle to fight, there are so many. Thanks everyone for any insights!

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thanks everyone - it's helpful to hear that we aren't the only ones struggling. I never know that sleeping patterns change with age
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Dear Jenn,

I have to agree with Ali, I wouldn't force your mom into a new pattern. My father and grandmother would also stay up late and sometimes nap during the day. Its like you said, sometimes its hard to know which battles to fight. With my own dad, I sort of gave up in the end and just let him be. I never wanted to fight with him. I would also ask the doctor and see if the meds she is taking might be affecting her sleep.
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It's typical, I think, for elders to keep odd sleeping hours. My grandmother and my father both would be up at night on many nights, then nap during the day. I got the impression they were doing what feels right to them, and that while I could encourage them to sleep at night, it just wasn't the rhythm they were in anymore. It didn't seem to matter that aides were there or that there were doctor's appointments during day or whatever. If the up-at-night pattern was corrected for one day by staying busy, it would start again the next night when they weren't busy.

I don't think you gain anything from trying to push a more rigid sleep schedule on your mom, under the circumstances. And I don't think it's a sustainable thing long term. You may get on her schedule for a few days but if she's finding her chair to be the comfortable spot in the evenings/overnight, she'll return to her comforting habit when she can.
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Unusual sleep patterns are very common in dementia.

Does she seem to be getting enough sleep? It is very likely that she isn't awake all night. She is just napping in the chair. Is she safe there on her own? When do the aides leave for the night?

I'd discuss this with her doctor. An odd sleeping pattern isn't a health concern, but it seems like it might cause concern for her safety when she is alone while awake. Persons with dementia reach a point where they need round-the-clock supervision. Talk to the doctor whether Mom may have reached that point. Would she enjoy being in the same building with her husband? Can she afford more aides at home?

When my husband had a really hard time getting up, I switched his day program to an hour later. That went much better. When he needed an aide at home I had her start at 9:00 instead of 8:00, which allowed her to get her child off to school. Sometimes he'd be asleep when she came. I told her it was OK to give him another hour. She was bored but at least she was getting paid. I worked from home so I was always there. Your situation is a little different. If you schedule the aide to start at noon, what if she wakes up at 10:00 and gets herself into trouble?

Keeping her active during the day is a good thing, but it may not correct her sleep pattern. I don't see any harm in her sleeping in, except for the inconvenience in scheduling her help.

But talk to her doctor about this. If she doesn't need more care now, she probably will at some point. Might as well start thinking about that and planning for it now.
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