Overnight care for the elderly

Quick summary

  • There are ways to look after the elderly at night including placing motion sensors in their bedrooms and monitoring their caffeine intake.
  • However, overnight care can provide reassurance that your loved one is safe and secure at all hours.
  • There are different options for overnight care, including full-time live-in care.

Nighttime 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 disoriented 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.

You can look after the elderly at night by:

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. As we age, our sleep patterns change, sometimes dramatically, particularly if there are other medical conditions such as dementia and incontinence to contend with.

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. 

Ways to monitor sleep


Home cameras

One of the suggestions for monitoring a loved ones sleep is to install a home camera – with their permission of course. This would allow you to see and hear exactly what happens overnight and understand your loved ones sleeping pattern.


Sleeping apps

There are different sleep monitoring apps which can be used to track sleep cycles. If you’re loved one is happy and capable of using one, they can be a good way to track their sleep cycle. 



It’s important to talk to your loved one about sleep and their sleeping patterns. Even those living with dementia may be able to communicate that they are having sleeping troubles so it is important to keep communication open.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your loved one’s nighttime needs so you can support them accordingly. You don’t want them missing out on the support they truly need. But, at the same time, you won’t want to pay for a nighttime carer if it’s not something they require regularly. 

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 another form of dementia may wake feeling disoriented 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.

Make sure you establish the root cause of their nighttime wandering and see if there’s a simple way to mitigate the risk of it happening. For example, rather than the person having to make a trip to the kitchen for a glass of water, put a drink and an easy-to-eat snack beside their bed instead.

Better quality of rest

Your loved one is less likely to wake up if they get a deeper sleep. Here are some basic ways this can be helped: 

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 their 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.

Sleeping night care

In this arrangement, a caregiver will sleep in your loved one’s home. This can be helpful for people who are anxious if they’re left alone during the night, but  don’t need a great deal of physical support .

The carer will be there for at least eight hours and will sleep in their own room but will be available to help your loved one if they need assistance during the night. Normally, a carer working a “sleeping night” would not expect to have to get up any more than twice. If your loved one needs more frequent attention than this, the shift would be classed as a “waking night”.

Waking night care

In this home-care option, the carer is actually on duty in your loved one’s home for a shift of around 10 hours, although different shift lengths may be arranged. They will not need a room or a bed, as they will not be sleeping.

If your loved one needs help several times during the night, this could be the best option for them. For example, they may require assistance in changing their position at regular intervals to prevent the development of pressure sores, or they might need medication administered at set times.

For older people needing dementia care, waking care might be necessary to ensure that they do not come to any harm during the night. People living with dementia are sometimes unable to interpret the signs that it is night time and may get up and try to leave the house. In-home care at night for them would need to be from a carer who was alert to this possibility.

An elderly person who is very anxious and needs reassurance from a carer may also need waking night care.

A sitting service

This might be needed if you or another family member provides elderly care for your loved one, but need a break during the night. A carer would visit to stay with the older person for a fixed length of time, such as two or four hours, while the primary carer has a break.

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’re 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 towards minimising disruption and puts your loved one back on the road to getting quality rest.

Care funding assessment

Get clarity over the amount of financial support you’re entitled to with our care funding calculator. Take a few minutes to answer some questions about your loved one’s situation and we’ll give you an estimate for NHS and local authority funding, as well as a range of elderly state benefits.

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