How to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Get a Good Night’s Sleep

How to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Alzheimer’s caregivers must learn to handle a variety of challenges. The disease creates worrying behaviors such as wandering and eating issues. One caregivers often cite is how long their senior family member can go without sleep. It can be exhausting for caregivers.

While medications may help, doctors often consider them a last resort. Prescribing medications for people with Alzheimer’s can be difficult because they process medications differently than their peers without the disease.

Fortunately, there are other options to try to help your family member with Alzheimer’s enjoy a better night’s rest.

Identifying Potential Causes of Sleep Issues

While researchers don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, they have a few ideas why people with this disease often experience sleep disorders. Some likely causes are:

  • Sundowner’s syndrome: As many as 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s experience this condition. It causes restlessness and confusion as the sun begins to set. People are more likely to pace and wander from home during this time. It wreaks havoc on the senior’s and their caregiver’s sleep schedules.
  • Overstimulation: Because of the physical damage Alzheimer’s causes to the brain, seniors with the disease may have difficulty processing an overly hectic or noisy environment. Overstimulation, especially in the afternoon or evening, might cause difficulty getting to or staying asleep.
  • Agitation and anxiety: Alzheimer’s often increases agitation and anxiety. Researchers attribute this to changes in the brain caused by the disease. Both of these emotions can make it difficult to relax and get a good night’s rest.
  • Disruption in sleep-wake cycle: Another possibility is that seniors who have Alzheimer’s undergo changes in their sleep-wake cycle. Research shows that in the early stages of the disease, a senior may wake up frequently throughout the night. When they do, they may get up and wander. As the disease progresses, the senior might get their days and nights mixed up. It causes them to sleep all day and be awake all night.
  • Medication problems: Some medications can cause sleeplessness or interactions that increase anxiety. Antidepressants and steroids are two examples. Ask your senior loved one’s primary care physician or pharmacist to review their medication list if you have any doubts.

Once you’ve had the chance to explore a few potential causes for a loved one’s sleep problems, the next step is to find ways to overcome them.

Ways to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Sleep Better

Here are a few steps you can take to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease overcome sleep disturbances:

  • Create a structured daily schedule where errands and exercise occur in the morning, and the afternoon and evening aren’t as busy. Also make sure to stick with a consistent bedtime and morning wake-up time.
  • Schedule a physical with the senior’s primary care doctor to see if there is a medical issue that may be causing pain. People with Alzheimer’s disease can have difficulty expressing discomfort.
  • Avoid serving foods and beverages with caffeine, especially later in the day, as they can make sleep difficult.
  • Limit the amount of fluid the senior consumes later in the day so they won’t have to use the bathroom during the night.
  • Turn off the television, which can be overstimulating, in the evening. Instead, play soft, soothing music to help the senior unwind.
  • Create a dark, quiet environment for sleeping and a get comfortable mattress. It might also help to have soft music playing on a sleep timer.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, our specialized dementia care program is known as The Terrace. From person-centered care to healthy meals and snacks, it is designed to allow people with dementia to live their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

How to Help a Parent with Medicare Open Enrollment

How to Help a Parent with Medicare Open Enrollment

Dear Donna:

My mother asked me to help her navigate the Medicare Open Enrollment period this year, which I am happy to do. The problem is I don’t know much about Medicare. I’m not yet eligible for the benefit, so I’m not sure where to start.

Can you offer any suggestions on what we should know and look for to ensure we make good choices?


Laurie in Brighton, MI

Overview of Medicare Open Enrollment

Dear Laurie:

While Medicare provides recipients with many benefits, it can be tough to navigate at first! Once you’ve been through open enrollment a few times, it becomes easier.

The first thing to know is Medicare Open Enrollment takes place from October 15th to December 7th every year. During this time, Medicare recipients can make changes to their existing plan. While you aren’t required to make any changes, it’s important to check that your mom’s preferred doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies will continue to participate in Medicare for 2022.

Your mother should have received two important documents in the mail: “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Changes” (ANOC). These list any scheduled changes to your mother’s plan for the upcoming year. But these documents probably aren’t the only ones filling your mother’s mailbox.

Because more seniors are enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans, Advantage providers have significantly increased their marketing efforts. So, your mother is likely receiving packets of literature from these providers, too. Review those packets of information to explore other options for 2022. Make sure to read more about Medicare Advantage plans on the official Medicare website if you and your mom are considering enrolling her in one.

Tips for Medicare Open Enrollment

To make the most of Medicare Open Enrollment this fall, you should:

  • Start your review early: For most seniors, this is the one time of year they can make changes. Don’t wait until late November to get started only to discover that you have questions or concerns you need answered before your mom can re-enroll.
  • Utilize the four C’s: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) encourages Medicare recipients to keep the four C’s in mind as they are reviewing options. They are cost, coverage, convenience, and choice. Compare last year’s medical bills, provider locations, and any anticipated medications or services your mom might need in 2022 with the four C’s.
  • Review drug coverage: If your mother doesn’t take many prescription medications, it’s easy to overlook how expensive they can be. Should your mother have a change in health or require surgery, medication costs can quickly add up. That’s why it’s important to take time to explore your options. Also investigate Medicare Advantage plans if your current plan doesn’t cover prescriptions or has a high co-pay. Other plans may offer better coverage.

If you find this process confusing, you aren’t alone. The good news is Medicare has tools and team members that can help. The Medicare Finder Tool allows Medicare eligible seniors to search by zip code to find plans in their area. You can also review each plan’s quality score or star rating.

I hope this information helps, Laurie! Good luck finding your way through Medicare Open Enrollment.

Kind regards,


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