Is it normal for a person with dementia to sleep so much? Is it depression? Is it illness? Should I let you stay in bed? Should I make you get up?
These are questions I’ve asked myself now and again over the past year. I have searched the Internet to find answers from other caregivers in the same situation.
The answer, as always, is that ‘it depends.’
Mom is in late-stage Dementia with Lewy Bodies, which can possibly go on for years. One of the earmarks of DLB is excessive sleeping, but another trademark is the on/off, up/down behavior. I just never know with Mom; she could surprise me tomorrow by staying awake all day and talking up a storm. But today, she’s been sleeping almost non-stop for 24-hours, and even the music she loves hasn’t disturbed her or enticed her to stay awake.
One blogger I found said that Provigil helped her Dad with daytime sleepiness until this advanced stage, but even if Mom took meds (which, as a Christian Scientist, she does not), this drug would not help now. In a sense, both this blogger and I have arrived at the same place from different directions.
It’s just amazing to to me that someone who goes to bed at 7:00pm and awakens at 7:30am can take a nap directly after breakfast, get up for lunch and then want to go back to bed. I often tell Mom she has to sit up in the living room for a while and I prop her up with pillows. We walk around the house for exercise but after about 50-feet, she’s ready to collapse onto the couch. If it’s cold outside, I sometimes have her sit in a chair in the vestibule so she can get a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine. (When it was nice and warm, we’d take a ride in the car and get an ice cream or do a few errands.)
When Mom is like this, she is usually still groggy at dinnertime so I’ve found that soup is about all that I can give her. I make sure it’s homemade with good vegetables and no chemicals. She loves milk, so if she really doesn’t want to chew and swallow, I’ll encourage her to have a bit of rice pudding or some fruit with cream or perhaps a smoothie. The saving grace in all this is that she loves eggs and I rarely have to prompt her to eat breakfast, so she at least gets in one good meal a day!
One thing I am insistent about: I make her drink water throughout the day. I put a little juice or a slice of lemon or orange in the water. Or I give her freshly squeezed grapefruit or orange juice. She’ll never say no to a cup of tea with milk and sugar, or some herbal tea for a change of pace. Sometimes she only takes a few ounces, but that’s better than nothing. After she drinks, I make her sit up for at least ten minutes. I once read that lying down right after consuming liquid can cause pneumonia. I think that happened to me back in the 90’s, so I’m very careful about this!
Still, I wonder. I wonder whether I am doing all I can for her. I’ve taken her to senior care, but she doesn’t participate. I spent a good amount of time, money and energy trying to find things she might be interested in – everything from coloring books and markers to simple word games and crossword puzzles. I tried to interest her in knitting, crocheting, card and board games, movies on VCRs she owns and DVDs I’ve bought of things that she used to enjoy, and books-on-tape.
I’ve spent time at a local healthclub and tried to put her on an exercise bike. She can’t do that anymore, so she sits and watches me work out. At least, I reason, she’s out of the house in the company of ‘healthy’ people who are not complaining about aches and pains all the time. In the past, I’ve dragged her in her transport wheelchair to church and events and museums, to the boardwalk and the mall and the movies, but I think I get more of a workout than she gets pleasure in attending.
Now that it’s cold outside, I have trouble getting her into the car by myself, so she doesn’t accompany me to the market – or anywhere. I’m looking into buying groceries online and having them delivered so I don’t have to leave her at home with someone in order to pick them up. That will be one more thing removed from her life – hopefully only till the weather gets warm again.
I like what another blogger said: “Sleep is Nature’s way of dealing with the hard parts of life.” This blog is about Nature’s Way. So I’ll lead her, encourage her, appeal to her sense of doing what’s right, and sometimes I’ll put my foot down a little…but I’ll always tell her I love her.
And I’ll let her sleep.