Articles of Interest

Respite Care Programs Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits for Seniors

What is the most pervasive healthproblem for the elderly? If you answered sleep, you would be right.Sleep, or more accurately, lack of sleep is the major cause of poorphysical and psychological health for elderly individuals and eldercare recipients. Without proper quality of sleep, everyone,especially senior citizens suffer from lack of concentration, poormemory function, and the body loses its ability to effectively repairphysical ailments and prevent disease. This article examines howhealthy sleep habits make a difference in the health and well beingof senior citizens.

More then half of men and women overthe age of 65 years complain of at least one sleeping problem, andmany elderly individuals experience insomnia and other sleepdisorders on a regular basis. Generally, the elderly populationsleep less frequently and experience more fragmented sleepingpatterns, spending less time in REM sleep (deep sleep) then theyounger crowd.

What causes sleep loss or poorquality of sleep? The following list includes the most commonreasons 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 homehealth care programs work to monitor and improve the sleeping habitsof elderly loved ones and care recipients with the goal of improvingoverall health. Respite care programs can review a care recipient’ssleep patterns and then suggest changes to daily routine, then adjustand implement solutions that are most appropriate. These changesinclude:

  • 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 topoor health. Disrupted sleep and restless nights can cause worsepain the next day, a problem for elderly individuals who experienceback pain and arthritis. Respite caregivers and assisted livingcaregivers work with loved ones to reduce the symptoms of poorsleeping habits. They record the effects of any changes made todaily routine, and adjust activities as is necessary. Sleep isimportant to all of us, but especially for our elder population, andessential to physical health and emotional well being.

Bio: Erica Ronchettiis a freelance writer for Visiting Angels, the nation'sleading, network of non-medical, private duty home care agenciesproviding senior care, elder care, personal care, respite care andcompanion care to help the elderly and adults continue to live intheir homes across America. Visit the Visiting Angels website to findout more information on respitecare 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.