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Nighttime Care: How to Look After the Elderly at Night

Night time care is not to be confused with what we consider to be a normal night’s rest. During the night hours, older people can often experience difficulty in resting. Broken sleep patterns aggravate degenerative conditions such as dementia and have a detrimental impact on the general well-being of those living with them.

These nighttime disruptions can undermine a loved one’s confidence and sense of independence in living at home. They can feel anxious and disorientated as a result. Nighttime care - also called overnight care - provides solid support throughout the night hours, enabling your loved one to feel reassured and secure. We’ve put together some tips to help you make sure your loved one is receiving the care they need at night.

Nighttime Activity

Everyone’s sleep patterns are different. However, it’s safe to say that most of us enjoy an uninterrupted period of sleep on a typical night. It’s important that you do not model your expectations of the type of care your loved one requires overnight on your own sleep patterns or expectations. As we age, our sleep patterns can change, sometimes dramatically, particularly if there are other medical conditions such as dementia and incontinence.

Monitor your loved one to observe how active they are overnight. Waking once or twice is normal, but any more than this could mean your loved one needs a night carer, someone who can tend to their needs when they wake up. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your loved one’s nighttime needs so you can support them accordingly.

Reduce the Risk of Injury

Darkness is an obvious hazard overnight, and this increases the risk of loved ones falling and injuring themselves. Consider placing motion sensor lights in the bedroom and passageway, so that your loved one can see where they are going if they get up to go to the bathroom or a drink of water. Make sure their path from their bed to the bathroom and kitchen is clutter-free, and there are no loose rugs for them to trip over.

Loved ones with conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia may wake feeling disorientated and confused. Sometimes this gives way to restlessness, and they may feel the urge to go outside. Make sure the house is securely locked, with no easy, obvious access to keys, as a nighttime deterrent to possible wandering.

Overall, make sure you establish what the nighttime activity entails. Rather than the person having to make a trip to the kitchen for a glass of water, for example, put a drink and an easy-to-eat snack beside their bed instead.

Better Quality of Rest

One way to ensure your loved one sleeps well at night is to check their caffeine intake, particularly in the afternoon and evening. Ensure too that they are receiving enough fresh air and exercise, that they aren’t sleeping during the day and that they are going to sleep every night at the same time.

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Check Medication

Make sure your loved one isn’t taking any sleeping pills, as these can cause increased disorientation if they wake during the night. Sleeping pills are especially problematic for those with Alzheimer’s, as the disorientation they experience heightens the risk of injury.

Incontinence Issues

Incontinence - or lack of bladder control - is a common problem experienced by older people. While you cannot control this condition, you can provide your loved one with comfort and support, including adult incontinence underwear and waterproofing the mattress to protect against damage. You may consider padding their bed, which saves changing linen in the middle of the night to lessen disruption and discomfort.

Overnight Professional Care

Opting for a professional carer to remain with your loved one overnight is a practical solution for uncertainty and anxiety of nighttime issues, whether medical, physical or psychological.

There are two main options for overnight care from a care professional. The first is where the carer sleeps at your loved one’s home and gets up a maximum of two times in a night. This option provides an extra layer of security and peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. The second night-care option is where the carer remains on site overnight but is on duty throughout. This option is ideal if your loved one is awake multiple times overnight either due to pain, disorientation or to take medication.

Caring for loved ones at night can be just as busy as caring for them during the day. If you are their primary carer, it’s important you have the support that you need to care for them and keep them safe.

All loved ones, whether they have care at home, elderly care, live-in care, dementia care or companion care, must have their needs catered for 24-hours a day. A clear assessment of their overnight routine goes a long way toward minimising disruption and puts your loved one back on the road to getting quality rest.

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