Insomnia Concerns and How It Affects Aging in Place

person sleeping

Updated 7/27/15 11:30 am | Alert1 often receives phone calls from family caregivers that feel distressed by the thought of moving their loved ones into a nursing home. It can be difficult to put the health of a loved one into the hands of strangers.

Further, many older adults suffer from insomnia, a condition that can worsen as a result of stressful life changes or a poor sleeping environment. For some older adults, moving to a nursing home can lead to many added health complications. Alert1 understands why many caregivers are determined to help their loved ones age in place.

The Dangers of Insomnia for Seniors

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Insomnia can be the result of a medication, a disorder such as heartburn, a neurologic condition such as dementia, a psychiatric condition such as depression, or a personal circumstance such as losing a loved one or relocating. Your loved one may suffer from insomnia if they exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • taking 30+ minutes to fall asleep
  • waking up repeatedly each night
  • trouble falling back to sleep
  • or feeling tired and unable to function well the following day

The most common reason older adults wake up at night is to go to the bathroom. These late night trips to and from bed are a blaring sign for a potential incident. Waking up at night may increase your loved one’s chance of falling, and waking up in an unfamiliar environment further complicates things. This is a major reason why many caregivers are concerned about the impact of moving their loved ones into a nursing home. Older adults can prevent fall risks and stay in the comfort of their home with an Alert1 fall detection system.

A Closer Look at Senior Nursing Homes

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A nursing home may provide a different environmental structure than your loved one is used to at home. Make a prolonged visitor twoto any nursing home you are considering. You’ll get a better idea of what a typical day and night will be like. In many nursing homes, there will be peripheral movement around the clock because staff members are always assisting residents.

Environmental factors such as lights being turned on and off or constant shuffling in the hallways could make it harder for your loved one to sleep. You may think that the one off sleep disturbance may seem minor given the myriad health challenges facing older adults. Yet, chronic insomnia can lead to a general decline in your loved one’s mood and health or place them at greater risk for serious health conditions such memory loss and depression.

All that being said, therearewonderful nursing homes out there and they are good solutions for many families. If you are concerned that your loved one is experiencing insomnia in their nursing home, there are steps they can take to help them sleep better. A consistent schedule may help them feel more refreshed and energized.

Your loved one should wake up at the same hour, as well as exercise and eat meals at set times. Get your loved one out into the sunshine. Many people don’t realize that the sun’s rays help regulate the sleep/wake cycle. If your loved one is taking medication, have their prescription double-checked. A doctor may be able to adjust the timing or dosage to help them sleep better.

Insomnia and Aging in Place

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If you are concerned about insomnia and nursing home care, there are things you can do to help your loved one age in place. One of my colleagues helped her elderly mother stay in her home by hiring weekly assistance services such as grocery delivery and home maintenance.

She also reached out to neighbors who were willing and able to lend a helping hand. Along with building a local support network, a medical alert system or alert pendant can be a crucial component of aging in place. It will allow your loved one to contact family members, emergency personnel or neighbors with the push of a button.