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We had successfully transitioned mom to an ALF on December 1. She loved the community and was settling in nicely. She fell on December 9 and has been in rehab since.


She tested positive for Covid December 23 and has been in quarantine for the past 14 days. She appears to be coming out of that, thankfully.


She has a pattern of calling multiple times during the night — usually starting around 10:30 PM. I wake up in the morning to find six or more “missed calls“ and voicemails. I had to shut my phone off to be able to sleep.


The troubling thing is that she has no concept of time. She often forgets where she is. Sometimes I think she might be “sleep calling“ and gets stuck in that loop, auto calling every 30 minutes or so until she finally falls asleep. She doesn’t remember making the calls the next day.


Worse, the voicemails she leaves make me feel awful. They’re often cries for help — “call someone to get me some water”, “no one is coming to help me”, “please get me out of here”.
I can’t bear to listen to them, and I don’t know what to do.


She’s likely going to be in rehab for another month before she returns to AL. Now that she’s past quarantine, she will begin a fairly aggressive PT and OT schedule to help her recover from the fall. I’m hoping that will help remedy the problem, as she’ll be physically and mentally fatigued by the time she goes to bed.


Any suggestions in the meantime? I’m really worn out over this.

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You are doing the right thing by turning off the phone.

Have you been able to contact the nursing staff and/or social worker about her overall physical condition and it’s potential impact on her sleep/wake cycles? Does her night time care staff know and address her disrupted sleep and her subsequent phone calls to you?

For example, might there be issues with overnight blood sugar levels, might she be restless because of pain from the fall?

Also ask if there are psychological/psychiatric services available. My LO is carefully watched for sleep issues and small doses of melatonin and other sleep aids have been very helpful to her.

As hard as it may be to consider, YOUR NEED for restorative sleep is JUST AS IMPORTANT to your mom as it is to you. You have obviously been an active conscientious caregiver, and you need to have confidence that her care staff is doing all they can so that your mom gets a good rest too.

You may have to consider requesting that her phone be taken from her at bedtime and returned early in the morning to see if that helps her to develop a better sleep/wake pattern.

Hope you are both enjoying better rest very soon.
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Loutre1313 Jan 10, 2021
All excellent points and I truly appreciate your support.

I thought taking her phone at night might not be a bad idea anyway, because she’s clearly keeping her roommate awake.

I have stopped listening to the voicemails and will continue to keep my phone shut off at night.
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Do what my children do - delete the messages unheard and call her back. If it was important and still needs doing, she'll be able to tell you when you ring.

If you want to ensure documenting - for example, if you want to keep track of the times she is calling in case there are concerns about staffing or about her mental state - you can note down the individual times of the calls before you delete them.
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gladimhere Jan 9, 2021
Do you call your children all night long, CM? 😉
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I blocked my mother’s phone calls. Sounds a little harsh but I feel much better. Her calls were threatening and she was hallucinating. You have the option of blocking the number at night and turning it back on in the morning. If there is an emergency the facility will be able to call you. As much as I promised myself I wouldn’t listen to her messages, I always did and I was making myself crazy. My mother would call all night with stories of drunken parties in her room, once there was a Union strike and protest with guns, and always cursing at me and threatening to sue me etc. I get how exhausting it is. When this first started I did call the front desk to check on her. They said nothing was wrong. Then she called me and told me that I was going behind her back and calling the nurses just to make her look like an a**hole. Sigh. Don’t feel bad about getting some sleep and do what you are comfortable with in order to do just that!
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Harpcat Jan 12, 2021
No it doesn’t sound harsh. I had to do the same thing. Help was there if he needed it. I needed my mental health more than he needed to make calls
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I disagree with posters telling you to take the calls.  Even if you did, what are you going to do for her in the middle of the night?  You have to have sleep and while she can stay up all night hallucinating and making phone calls and then take naps throughout the day, you more than likely can't.  One thing you could do is talk to the facility and ask if they can place a glass of water on her tray or side table so that if she gets thirsty, water is easily available.  That is to make you feel better, not her. Because the reality is that even if they do that, she won't remember or recognize that it's there.  You can't fix her mental state and you can't sit by her side 24/7 to reassure her.  Maybe you could tell the facility what is going on and maybe they can giver her something to help her sleep.  I would turn the phone off and try not to feel guilty.  This is an ugly time of life...no two ways about it.  I have dealt with the crazy calls from my mother and I know how exhausting it is and I feel for you.
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Why do you have to listen to the messages? You can delete without listening.
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Please consider playing these calls for the night crew at the Rehab and ask that they check her as frequently as they are able. About all you can do. As you said there is little memory and no concept of time. For someone who has been through this remarkable adjustment and then got covid, in all truth she is doing better than can be expected. Turn your phone off at night and let the rehab know you have had to do this. Give them another emergency number in case of change in her condition, say a neighbor who might agree to this. Get up in a.m. and listen to the last of her messages, and no others. And get on with the day. I can't think of anything else to tell you. I am so sorry, and am certain your are worn out by it.
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Loutre1313 Jan 10, 2021
Excellent suggestion. This whole journey started back in August, when mom was hospitalized for a UTI and then admitted to rehab – a different facility than where she is now.

She came home in September to 12 hours of caregiving seven days a week, and then we moved her to AL December 2nd.

So she’s had an unbelievable amount of change thrust at her in just a few short months. Plus Covid. If she gets through this and returns to AL, I can only imagine how much she’ll thrive! 🙏🏼
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Your mom may have legitimate concerns. I would call the nurse on duty and have them check on your mom and have the nurse call you back. I would also contact the nurse manager the next day with any concerns.
My mom has been at two assisted living facilities & in and out of rehab a few times. You are paying them to care for your mom. They need to communicate with you what’s going on. Also, many of these facilities are understaffed, especially at night.
It may be that she’s getting good care but I would urge you to find out what’s going on at the facility.
I wish you and your mom peace of mind.
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Seems your mom is upside down on her wake/sleep cycles or has Sundowner's Syndrome. Let the facility know that you are getting multiple phone calls in the evening from her and that she is distressed. ask them to visit her more often in the evenings and document any confusion or anxiety in their nursing notes. The staff at her facility should be able to handle wake/sleep cycle disruptions and/or Sundowner's Syndrome. You may need to call her doctor as well and let him/her know about her evening anxiety. The doctor may prescribe medication to help her fall asleep in the evening and/or anti-anxiety medication to help her relax.
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ZWoman Jan 12, 2021
My mother's physician started her on Risperdal and it worked wonders on the Sundowning. Anti-anxiety meds like Valium can contribute to their confusion. Even Benadryl can cause memory loss. Your parent needs to see a board certified geriatric physician. Good luck and do not feel guilty about turning the phone off. If you are not well rested, you cannot function.
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When my dad was in rehab from a fall, I finally had the phone in his room removed. Because he would call me to complain or to tell me he needed this or that even though I could do nothing about it and the nurses weren’t coming. Which of course was not true...but as everyone here knows you can’t reason with dementia. He acted like he was the only patient in rehab and they should come the minute he put his light on. So finally I told the nurses if he wanted to talk to me, he had to ask her and she would call us. That helped tremendously. And from there he went to the LTC and we never let him have a phone. It just didn’t serve any good purpose. And actually he didn’t miss it. Again we had the nurse call us if he wanted to talk which was rare. The problem is they sit and fret and get worked up because no one is coming to help and so they call YOU when there is nothing you can do. So if you choose to listen to the voicemails realize that this is pretty normal behavior. That there is no guilt needed and delete each one.
you might even see if something like Trazadone given at night would help her sleep and lessen this anxiety. It helped my dad
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I would not listen to the messages.

I would let the rehab know that she is not fully understanding how she can contact them for her immediate needs and ask them to help her with that.

I have seen people in rehab that were left with no water, so I wouldn't ignore her but, make the facility do everything possible to ensure that she is being cared for in the best way. Speaking to the DON or someone in their social services department can ensure that the simple things are getting done.

One thing that really helped me not feel bad about turning my phone off was that I knew the facility would contact me if anything happened that needed me.
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