Living with dementia can be stressful and exhausting. So a good night’s sleep is essential for those with dementia and their carer. The bedroom should be a calm place with a relaxing, reassuring atmosphere. It should also be safe and free from things that may cause disorientation or risks of trips and falls.
Here are some common issues and the simple steps that can be taken to address them.
Telling the time
Forgetting how to tell the time is one of the classic symptoms of early dementia. Someone with dementia may also find it difficult to recognise the difference between daytime and night-time.
A digital clock with a large display will help – particularly one that also tells the user if it’s morning, evening or night-time. Speaking clocks are great for those who are visually impaired. Keep the clock in an easy-to-see spot, so the person doesn’t have to remember to look at it.
Getting in and out of bed
Mobility problems can impact on seemingly straightforward tasks. Movements like getting into the seated position may make it difficult to get in and out of bed. Tackling these issues at an early stage is important to prevent injury or serious accidents. Learning easier techniques early on for getting in and out of bed can be helpful.
Specialised equipment may be available and can be used either by the person or with assistance from a carer. Bed rails or ladders can be helpful, but they must be used with extreme caution – some people have had their heads trapped between the bars! Other aids include using a leg lifter or installing a grab handle to a nearby wall.
It’s a good idea to talk to an Occupational Therapist to see if they have suitable solutions.
Getting to the toilet
Finding the bathroom at night can be a problem. But there are things you can do to make it as simple as possible.
· Remove clutter from the bedroom to help eliminate trip hazards
· Leave the bathroom door open and keep the line of sight from the bed to the toilet unobstructed
· Use contrasting colours for the door and doorframe to help identify the door opening
· Use different colours for the bed cover, sheets, pillows, floor and bedhead to help locate the bed upon returning.
Incontinence can also be a cause of stress and concern. But there are many aids available to make things more manageable. Waterproof duvets and mattress protectors will keep the bedding dry. An incontinence alarm will detect moisture and alert the sleeper or their carer. Incontinence pads and absorbent underwear are readily available and can also be worn.
Your GP will help to get the right nurse involved to help manage continence.
Getting around at night
Many simple steps can be taken to help someone with dementia find their way around at night. These actions can help ensure the bedroom is a calm, safe place, free from things that may cause disorientation, trips or falls.
· Remove unnecessary clutter from the room or obstacles that may be a trip hazard
· Keep photos or objects that help to maintain familiarity and orientation
· Install a motion-sensing light to illuminate the way to the bathroom
· Use touch-controlled bedside lamps to avoid having to search for an on-off switch
· Use contrasting colours between the light switch and the wall to help with identification.
Getting dressed in the morning
To avoid confusion when getting dressed in the morning, lay out clothes, in order, in front of the cupboard. Alternatively, hang the clothes on numbered hangars so the person can tell which clothes to put on and in what order.
For those with mobility problems, dressing aids can help with putting on socks, tights and shoes. Elasticated laces can help to avoid confusion with tying laced shoes.
One of the most significant concerns for carers is night-time wandering. Sometimes there is no reason for wandering, but often there is a motive – hunger, thirst or needing the bathroom. While leaving a glass of water and a small snack by the bed may solve the problem, an alarm-based system may offer the best peace of mind.
A bed occupancy sensor mat will alert the carer when the person has left their bed. Motion-sensing detectors are ideal for monitoring large areas such as the bedroom. A floor sensor mat with a smart alarm can also alert the carer if the mat is stepped on – the mat will continue to alarm even after the person has stepped off. Other options, such as a doorway anti-wander safety beam, can alert the carer if someone is leaving a room.
Make sure to find out what is needed in your home to use these devices effectively. Some alarms use an internet or phone connection, and their signal may be blocked by walls or other electronic devices.