Tips to Make Overnight Caregiving Easier

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For the third time tonight, your mother calls out that she needs help getting to the bathroom. You wearily rise and assist her, trying to muster your last shreds of patience. Tucking her back into bed, you ask yourself if you should even try to hit the pillow again yourself.

It’s a common scenario for family caregivers. Many health conditions can prompt seniors to get up during the night, but there several strategies family caregivers can employ to make nighttime caregiving easier.

Tips to Make Nighttime Caregiving Easier (Based on Condition)

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.

If an infection has been ruled out and the senior simply needs to empty his or her bladder frequently at night, then you might streamline the process by adding a portable bedside commode. These chair-style items 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. 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.

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. Sometimes medications can trigger insomnia, so if a senior family member suddenly begins having trouble sleeping through the night you might want to consult his or her doctor.

If a senior loved one wakes frequently, make sure the bedroom contains a comfortable chair and low-level lights for reading or another non-stimulating activity like 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.

4. Alzheimer’s disease

Many seniors with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia engage in rummaging behaviour during the night. You can strive to manage the behavior by:

  • Removing all dangerous objects like scissors from the rummaging area.
  • Creating a safe rummage bag, drawer or even room (like a walk-in closet). The rummage bag should include the types of item the senior seems to enjoy sorting through. Often this includes clothing, like socks. Observe the senior’s behaviour to get a sense of what types of objects they like to handle, and include these in the bag.
  • When the senior awakens to rummage at night, direct him or her to the designated bag, drawer or room. Do not disturb the rummaging. Keep lights low.

You give so much through caregiving, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your sleep. If you try the above techniques but still find yourself losing too much sleep, then it might be time to call in a professional. Home Instead Senior Care® CAREGiversSM can provide overnight supervision of sleepless seniors so you can get a decent night’s rest without worrying about your loved one’s safety.