Mom sleeps most of the time -but is that for the best?

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My mom is in her mid-70s, a life-long sufferer of poor mental health (bipolar), and a martyr to arthritis. She can barely move; she's had some bad falls and despite extensive physical therapy, avoids walking and movement in general. She lives in another state, in subsidized housing. Moving her here isn't practical; we live in a 3rd floor apartment and senior subsidized housing waitlists are eternal here. I've offered to hire someone to come in and help with housekeeping and laundry, but she always says no, or not yet. She doesn't want us to spend money on her because we're putting a child through college and recovering from some pretty difficult life events ourselves. She is on antidepressants, thyroid medication, blood pressure medication, and OTC pain medications. She is fond of her doctor, but doesn't wish to discuss her excessive sleeping with him 'yet.' So here's the question: given that she hasn't been happy in years, and given the fact that she is in constant, intransigent pain -- how interventionist should I be? She is (presumably) not in pain when she's sleeping. She is in pain when she's awake, both physically and psychologically. How wrong is it for me to be OK with her sleeping so much? I just want her to be safe and comfortable and at peace. Her torment is my torment.

Answers 1 to 6 of 6
I would guess her sleep is her escape from reality, like reading a good book or binging on tv shows. No wonder she does not care to bring it up! She's likely depressed as well- maybe get her to ask for antidepressants instead of asking for her to admit her sleep abuse. Would that be doable? You can write & send a note to her MD with her name & don't alerting him to her excessive sleep for the chart.
Dear MBFoster,

I'm sorry to hear about your mom's condition. It is a tough situation. I use to think it was OK just to let my dad be but I realized it was a mistake. I know many patients don't want to ask their doctors or even challenge their doctors, but I am concerned now if a person sleeps too much.

Excessive sleeping could be a sign of depression. Side effects of medication. I know its hard to find the right balance, but I would try and talk to her doctor about it. Seek out a second and third opinion if necessary.
Your mom is still relatively young and you don't mention any physical disease that indicates she is near the end of her life, so I think it is a mistake to allow her to stay in bed. Lack of exercise can lead to physical frailty, which will only make her more dependent and and therefore more unhappy. (Not to mention harder to care for). She could easily live another decade or two, and it would be better for both of you to try to make her remaining days more bearable.
cwillie's right. Your mom's excessive sleeping can cause her to lose strength, muscle tone, and can contribute to falls. My mom took to her bed after her cancer. She was cancer-free but was hit by an enormous depression. She went to bed and never really got up again. She'd use the bathroom but it was right back to bed after. She began falling when she'd get up to use the bathroom and her mental state deteriorated as well. Our bodies are meant to move. And I agree that excessive sleeping will cause your mom to become frail. From the time my mom took to her bed to her death was a matter of months. She didn't die of cancer. She just died.

There's nothing wrong with a nap or two if they're brief, maybe sitting up in a recliner, but your mom has to get out of bed and get moving.
I am not diagnosing here, but want to mention that an early indicator of Lewy Body Dementia is excessive daytime sleepiness. LBD is the more common than people think, if they even think of it, as few people seem to have heard of it.
My husband was diagnosed with it a year ago, and in hindsight I realize He was excessively sleepy during the day for several years before the diagnosis. You may want to read a bit about LBD and then at least speak with her doctor.
Top Answer
I must be missing the part where the OP says how much of the time her mother spends asleep. How much is "most of the time"?

More to the point, for me, is that her mother has a GP she likes and (according to the profile) is also in the hands of what sounds like a capable Area Agency team. So she's well supported; and even if she says she doesn't want to talk to her doctor about the "excessive sleeping" this is a question her doctor will have in mind.

MBF, I wonder if you are just wishing you could "do something!"? But, like what?

Your mother has had extensive PT. It hasn't helped her. You have offered help with practical tasks but she has declined it; and since she is being (albeit loosely) monitored you can be reasonably confident that she must be coping adequately - possibly with help that she doesn't quite mentally register as help, such as meals on wheels or assistance from neighbours or the building supervisor. So what is it that you feel you should or might be doing or getting done that you haven't already ruled out?

It is very hard to be a remote caregiver, I know. You're kept so much in the dark. What about getting your mother on the waiting list for your area anyway and just seeing what happens?

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