dementia care includes reducing night frightAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5 million Americans aged 65 years and older have Alzheimer’s Disease or related dementia. That means one in 11 Americans over 65 have some form of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that family caregivers spent a combined 17.7 billion hours providing informal care for their loved ones in 2013. This figure is expected to jump to exponentially over the next 25 years. Amid these alarming trends, one thing remains constant: the need for quality, individual dementia care.

People with dementia experience a number of psychological and behavioral symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and unwarranted aggressiveness. Dementia symptoms not only disrupt our loved ones’ livelihood, but are also upsetting to us.

As family caregivers, we may feel caught between a rock and a hard place when caring for an aging parent or spouse with dementia. One of the more challenging dementia care ordeals is dealing with night fright.

Night fright in seniors happens when a loved one abruptly awakens in terror, panic, and bewilderment in the middle of the night. Night fright is common among seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Night fright may be associated with agitation, restlessness, and confusion they experienced earlier in the evening. These symptoms may be related to another common psychological condition in seniors with dementia called sundown syndrome, which generally occurs around sunset as natural light fades.

Night fright may also cause unintended harm to our loved ones from waking up frightened and falling out of bed to waking up disoriented and wandering out of the house. Providing the right dementia care is essential in safeguarding their welfare.

Here are 10 other tips to reduce night fright and improve dementia care at night:

  1. Encourage your loved one to practice good sleep hygiene to help them sleep better at night. When possible, use the bedroom only for sleep.
  2. Help them take a warm bath before bedtime to help them relax.
  3. Play your loved one’s favorite music, or calming, instrumental music before bedtime to soothe their mind.
  4. Get rid of accident-prone areas like flimsy rugs, unguarded stairwells, protruding furniture in walkways, and slippery floors in case they wander in the middle of the night.
  5. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake to prevent evening jitters.
  6. Plan their meals and beverages several hours before bedtime to prevent repeated trips to the toilet.
  7. Remove ticking clocks from the bedroom to maintain a quiet environment.
  8. Partake in morning and early afternoon outside activities and exercise with your loved one.
  9. Have an panic plan in place if your loved one wakes up frightened. Practice the plan with them including steps to quell their panic: turning on an easy to reach light, getting to an easy to reach phone, and dialing a familiar person. Write down the steps and number and keep on the bedside table
  10. Reassure your loved one that your or someone they know is just a phone call away.

Have additional tips to reduce night fright? Share them in the comments below.