There are grievously few choices available for family caregivers and their seniors with dementia. While there may be treatments for people with dementia, there is no cure (yet…), which means it is something families and seniors need to grow used to.
No doubt, one of the biggest struggles is wandering. There are numerous organizations and support groups in place to help find wandering seniors with dementia. There are buttons provided by the Alzheimer’s Association that act as tracking systems; there are phone apps to track your elder; hotlines you can call; we’ve even witnessed firsthand how social media can be used – a person said their elder with dementia went missing and sure enough it was shared across Facebook and Twitter; everyone in the area was on the lookout!
However, a sad fact that we all slowly realize as caregivers is that MANY forms of dementia interrupt our elders’ sleep cycles. This is a problem because if they’re not sleeping, chances are, you’re not sleeping. One of the things we’ve talked about previously is dementia sundowning. This usually happens because our elders’ sleep cycle is thrown off and they cannot go back to sleep. This arouses confusion and frustration among many other negative behavioral side effects.
It’s awful, waking up and not realizing where you are or how you got there – if you can imagine that; it’s really scary.
This is why nursing homes – which foster seniors with dementia and other issues that require constant care and attention – are secured facilities. They lock down because they don’t want elders wandering off the premises.
Indeed, many family caregivers struggle with wandering seniors. As caregiving is a 24/7 job, you don’t get much sleep as is. The challenge is doubled when the sleep you try to get is interrupted every time your senior gets up in the middle of the night and needs to be consoled because they’re confused and angry. Some caregivers sleep in front of their elder’s room, so that they’ll be awoken if their senior wakes up.
Hopefully, if you’re not a caregiver (yet), this gives some insight into why it’s such a tough job, but for current caregivers, you may be wondering if there are more options.
Overnight Programs for Seniors with Dementia in New York
Just recently, NBC News reported on a dementia care program in New York. There are others similar to it, but they are rare and it definitely seems like something we should push for across the country.
Essentially, the elder care home fosters a lively party – yes, really. Jim Fitzgerald, author of the article, talks about how people are dancing, playing music and games. The idea was to create a center for seniors with dementia (and especially suffering from sundowning) can go and not be fearful, but excited! Moreover, caregivers get the opportunity to sleep and rest easy knowing their elder is in safe, qualified hands!
These kinds of facilities help the caregiver and the senior. Daniel Reingold mentioned that he established the program to give caregivers a break. What’s great about this program is that it doesn’t fight dementia patients’ urges, instead it creates an accommodating environment. It would be a great world if we could do that everywhere.