Why Does My Parent with Dementia Get Restless Before Bed?

About one in every five people with Alzheimer’s experience confusion, anxiety, or Alzheimer'srestlessness later in the day, often disrupting their sleep schedule and leading to other behavioral issues. There is very little that is known about why these signs of restlessness (known as sundowning) happen, but some contributing factors may include the following:

• Exhaustion from the day
• Reduced ability to separate dreams from reality, which may lead to disorientation and confusion
• The individual needs less sleep, which is actually common in the elderly
• Lost ability to track time, leading to disruptions in their internal day-night cycle
• Nonverbal cues from frustrated or tired caregivers
• Low visibility leading to confusion
• Physical ailments, such as restless leg syndrome, incontinence, or sleep apnea
• Other psychological ailments, such as depression
• Sedentary lifestyle during the day

In most cases, signs of restlessness at night are strongest during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, these behaviors diminish. While the exact cause is not completely understood, it is assumed that restlessness in the evening and changes in sleep patterns result from the effects that Alzheimer’s has on the brain.

Usually, the best way to handle the situation is without the use of medication, since the drugs used to promote sleep often lead to increases in falls. Things to try instead of sleep medications include:

• Maintain a daily routine
• Turn on lights in the evening to preserve visibility
• Keep your parent’s sleeping area comfortable
• Encourage exercise and activity during the day
• Avoid activities at night
• Avoid stimulants such as nicotine and alcohol
• Identify triggers, such as television, loud music, or chores
• Keep yourself well rested, since your exhaustion or agitation can affect your parent’s behavior

The way you handle your parent’s sundowning will ultimately depend upon their individual needs. If it’s getting to be too much to handle on your own, other resources are available. Senior Care Centers can help you by shouldering some of the burden for you and providing your parent with the skilled and attentive care they need so contact us today.

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