Home > Health Conditions Affecting The Elderly > Walking & Nighttime Restlessness In Those With Dementia

Walking & Nighttime Restlessness In Those With Dementia

As countless studies have shown, nighttime routine, especially in the hectic society we live in, is key to having clarity the next day. Even without the research, most people know what it is like trying to function normally the day after a bad night’s sleep. Impaired sleep is especially common in older persons and is associated with poor daytime function, greater risk of mood disorders, poorer quality of life, impaired immune function and greater rates of falls, injuries, physician visits and healthcare costs. Sleep problems are particularly prevalent in persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Many independent and assisted living homes are part of a larger complex called a Continuing Care Retirement Community. CCRCs are communities that offer several levels of health care on one campus. Some states refer to them as “residential living.” Independent Living is for residents who do not require personal assistance. Assisted Living is for those who require some assistance with the activities of daily life such as eating, bathing, walking and medication.

Memory Care, sometimes referred to as “special care” provides assistance to those who are have cognitive impairment and suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, both short and long term, are provided at an on-campus Health Care Center. Many patients living in the Memory Care wings need special nighttime monitoring to assure their safety because of restlessness and the tendency to wander, a condition that accompanies the disease. Scientists theorize that sleep disturbances in people with dementia may be caused in part by a reduction of external cues that synchronize our internal “clock” to the 24-hour light and dark cycle, called the Circadian Rhythm.  Within the Circadian cycle, a person usually sleeps approximately 8 hours and is awake 16. During the wakeful hours, mental and physical functions are most active and tissue cell growth increases. During sleep, activities nearly disappear and there is a decrease in metabolic rate, respiration, heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. The activity of the digestive system decreases during the resting period, but that of the urinary system increases.

insomnia by *dreamon72 on deviantART

Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia whose biological clocks are not functioning normally are significantly affected with restlessness, insomnia and the resulting nighttime wandering. A variety of factors can trigger wandering in Alzheimer’s patients, but it is more likely to happen if a patient or resident:
Is restless, pacing, or making repetitive motions.
Is having trouble finding familiar places like the bathroom or kitchen.
Is trying to investigate where familiar people are.
Seems to be performing a hobby or chore, but gets nothing done.
Becomes lost or confused in a new environment.
Attempts to go to work or fulfill some other former obligation.
Wants to “go home” even if they are already are.

Healthcare workers and staff in memory care units utilize methods of dissuading or preventing an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient from wandering such as:
Encouraging daytime movement, exercise, and recreational activities such as music therapy or movie watching, especially if the person is pacing or seems restless. Lower levels of daily physical activity have been proven to be associated with sleep disturbances. Making sure basic needs, like hunger, thirst or bathroom necessities are met, as the person may wander to meet these needs. Securing exit doors in a way that makes them difficult to open, or camouflaging doorknobs or doors with cloth or curtains. Placing large signs on exits that say “Stop” or “Do Not Enter.” Taking precautions, knowing the triggers, and planning can all help protect and retrieve a patient with dementia who may be restless and try to wander off.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Los Angeles and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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