Is it normal for someone with Alzheimer's to stay in bed all day?

Mary c asked...

My mom is now refusing to get out of bed. She argues when the caregivers try to get her up and also when we come and try to get her up. She just wants to stay in bed and sleep all day and night. She has also lost her appetite and doesn't care if she misses many meals in a row. It's the same with drinking. When we do finally get her up she is thirsty and hungry. Is this a normal stage of Alzheimer's or is something going on?

Expert Answer

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

When there is a change in behavior, and the individual with dementia cannot explain this change, caregivers must initially check to see if there is an acute condition precipating the change. Perhaps your mom is experiencing pain or discomfort from a medical problem such as a urinary tract infection. Her physician will be able to rule out any illness and then look at her this new phase behavior.

Alzheimer patients are known to either be very awake and restless or lethargic and sleepy wanting to stay in bed all day and night like your mom. It is common for those with advanced Alzheimer's to become less mobile and sleep more. Since their ability to understand directions and clues to perform action progressively lessens, caregivers must modify their communication to be more tactile and less verbal. Thus, if you want your mom to come to the table to eat, you (and another perhaps) may need to physically transfer her there rather than asking or negotiating with words. Like you say, when she is at the table, she is hungry and thirsty but when you ask or cajole, she resists. It sounds as though she needs you to make the decision for her at this time. Often putting a glass of water next to her without asking if she wants it will result in increased drinking.

If her appetite does not improve, her doctor can recommend stimulants or supplements.