Is drowsiness normal in middle-stage Alzheimer's?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it normal that my mother who is 88 and is middle stage of Alzheimer's falls into a light sleep when she is eating, or looking at TV? She seems to be extremely tired and this has just developed in the past few weeks.

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.

Alzheimer's itself does not necessarily cause 'drowsiness'. Sometimes co-morbid diagnoses (like high blood pressure or diabetes) can contribute to a greater sense of lethargy. Medications can also impact on ones alertness as can lack of activity and exercise. Many Alzheimer patients have nocturnal disruptions so they lack a good night's sleep and then will doze off more during the day. Many seniors who have also suffered mini-strokes or major strokes might be extremely tired and doctors often consider drugs like ritalin if this 'drowsiness' affects their over-all functioning. For someone who is usually alert and awake, a change like 'drowsiness' could be a sign of illness (like urinary tract infection). Therefore, it is recommended you check with your mother's physician to rule out any acute and reversible condition.