Articles of Interest

Respite Care Programs Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits for Seniors

What is the most pervasive health problem for the elderly? If you answered sleep, you would be right. Sleep, or more accurately, lack of sleep is the major cause of poor physical and psychological health for elderly individuals and elder care recipients. Without proper quality of sleep, everyone, especially senior citizens suffer from lack of concentration, poor memory function, and the body loses its ability to effectively repair physical ailments and prevent disease. This article examines how healthy sleep habits make a difference in the health and well being of senior citizens.

More then half of men and women over the age of 65 years complain of at least one sleeping problem, and many elderly individuals experience insomnia and other sleep disorders on a regular basis. Generally, the elderly population sleep less frequently and experience more fragmented sleeping patterns, spending less time in REM sleep (deep sleep) then the younger crowd.

What causes sleep loss or poor quality of sleep? The following list includes the most common reasons elderly individuals suffer from poor sleep habits.

  • Irregular sleeping hours.

  • Consuming alcohol just prior to bedtime.

  • Napping too much during the daytime hours.

  • The frequent need to urinate.

  • Pain from various ailments, including arthritis, diabetes, etc…

  • A sedentary lifestyle.

  • Stress.

  • Life changes, such as the death of a loved one, a move, or physical limitations.

  • Sleep breathing disorders, including sleep apnea and snoring.

Respite care programs and other at home health care programs work to monitor and improve the sleeping habits of elderly loved ones and care recipients with the goal of improving overall health. Respite care programs can review a care recipient’s sleep patterns and then suggest changes to daily routine, then adjust and implement solutions that are most appropriate. These changes include:

  • Improving an elderly loved one’s nutritional intake, preparing small, nutritious meals.

  • Encouraging the patient to sleep regularly, or setting up regular sleep hours (to prevent excessive daytime napping).

  • Monitoring naps a loved one is taking, and then trying different times and durations to determine which napping pattern works best and does not impede nighttime rest.

  • Encouraging social activities, family time, and companionship to keep up activity levels.

  • Monitoring medications, and limiting the use of sleep enhancing medications.

  • Assisting with daily living activities to reduce stress level. This includes housekeeping, taking care of errands, and assisting with personal hygiene.

  • Helping the patient enjoy active activities, ensuring they get as much sunlight as possible and spend time outdoors.

  • Reducing the intake of caffeine, stimulants, and nicotine.

  • Prompting the patient or family to have a physician review any medications their loved one is prescribed.

A poor sleep cycle may be linked to poor health. Disrupted sleep and restless nights can cause worse pain the next day, a problem for elderly individuals who experience back pain and arthritis. Respite caregivers and assisted living caregivers work with loved ones to reduce the symptoms of poor sleeping habits. They record the effects of any changes made to daily routine, and adjust activities as is necessary. Sleep is important to all of us, but especially for our elder population, and essential to physical health and emotional well being.

Bio: Erica Ronchetti is a freelance writer for Visiting Angels, the nation's leading, network of non-medical, private duty home care agencies providing senior care, elder care, personal care, respite care and companion care to help the elderly and adults continue to live in their homes across America. Visit the Visiting Angels website to find out more information on respite care programs.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.