Page 10 • November 2016 • Golden Gazette
How to make nighttime caregiving easier For the third time tonight, around 4 a.m., your mother calls out that she needs help getting to the bathroom. You wearily rise and groggily assist her. Tucking her back into bed, you ask yourself if you should even try to hit the pillow again yourself. You’ll have to be up in a couple of hours to get ready for work, anyway. Deciding you might as well stay up, you brew a cup of coffee and contemplate how you’re going to get through the day on six scant hours of interrupted sleep.
It’s a common scenario for family caregivers. Maybe you’re familiar with it. Many health conditions can prompt seniors to get up during the night. Overactive bladder, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, and insomnia are just a few of the conditions that might plague seniors and cause them to wake up multiple times every night. And when they require assistance during these waking episodes, your own sleep becomes fragmented. Tips to make nighttime caregiving easier Fortunately, family care-
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givers can employ several strategies to make nighttime caregiving easier and more efficient, potentially minimizing sleep interruption for everyone involved. Here are some tips to help. 1. Frequent urination If a loved one formerly slept through the night but has begun getting up to use the bathroom frequently, you might want to consult his or her doctor to make sure the senior does not have a urinary tract infection or some other treatable condition. Seniors often do not pro-
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cess pain signals the way younger people do, so they may not express having discomfort with urination, even if they have an infection. If an infection has been ruled out, and the senior simply needs to empty the bladder frequently at night, then you might streamline the process by adding a portable bedside commode to make it easy and quick for a senior to get up, urinate, and climb back into bed. They also enhance safety, since seniors don’t have to walk a long distance in the dark to reach the toilet. 2. Chronic pain Aging often brings with it a host of aches and pains. These nagging complaints can make it difficult for a senior to get comfortable in bed and sleep through the night. Once again, a first step might be to have a chat with your loved one’s doctor, especially for new complaints of pain. A medical professional may be able to pinpoint the cause of pain and prescribe medication or make suggestions for alleviating the discomfort to make sleeping easier. However, if the pain is ongoing, try using pillows, a foam mattress topper, or even an adjustable bed to help the senior find a comfortable sleeping position. Through a process of trialand-error, try tucking pillows between the knees, behind the back, or under the head to find out what combination
relieves the senior’s discomfort. And an adjustable bed, the ultimate sleeping comfort item, might provide general pain relief. 3. Insomnia Many people think insomnia means being wide awake all night, but that’s not the case. Clinically speaking, insomnia refers to any type of chronically disrupted sleep. This includes periods of frequent waking. Insomnia occurs more frequently in seniors. Sometimes medications trigger insomnia, so if a senior family member suddenly begins having trouble sleeping through the night, consult the doctor for an evaluation. If a senior wakes frequently, make sure the bedroom contains a comfortable chair and low-level lights for reading or another nonstimulating activity such as knitting or completing crossword puzzles. Avoid using tablet computers or cell phones during these episodes because their “blue light” emission is known to inhibit drowsiness. If these techniques don’t work, and a senior family member experiences insomnia that causes you to sacrifice your own sleep for weeks or months on end, it might be time to call in a professional. Caregivers can provide overnight supervision of sleepless seniors so you can get a decent night’s rest without worrying about (See Caregiving, Page 12)
Published on Oct 25, 2016