How can I help Dad keep his days and nights right?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father is 83 and is estimated to be at the mid stages of Alzheimer's. He sings in a senior choir and goes to a fitness class three days a week. He enjoys watching sports and still has a good sense of humor. He requires considerable direction in his day and has extreme forgetfulness, but still is a very happy and determined man. One problem is his wakefulness. Sometimes he gets up in the middle of the night and starts his day. This mean he might get dressed and go downstairs and have cereal and take his blood pressure. Other times he dresses, puts his coat on and goes downstairs ready to head out to his fitness class. Are their any suggestions for helping him know to go back to bed after he gets up to go to the bathroom versus starting his day? Thank you.

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

You and your father are both so fortunate that he's involved in his choir and exercise. The only drawback is that sometimes he's so eager that he loses his sense of time. He's still high-functioning and may simply need a reminder.

You can start by using a combination of easy-to-read wall clocks and signs to remind him when he needs to sleep and when he goes to choir and exercise group. Inexpensive 8" clocks sell at most of the big chain stores for under $20.00. You'll probably want to hang a clock in several areas: in the bathroom and by the closet for instance. Next to the clock you hang a sign to remind Dad of the schedule. Ask your father to help you with the wording of the signs as well as selecting the locations for them.

Help your dad cut back on the bathroom visits by reducing or eliminating liquids after dinner "“ and remind him to use the bathroom right before bed.

If this problem persists you might consider using a monitor. The most commonly used monitors are bed pressure pads, motion detectors, or door monitors. The monitor is silent with a remote alarm, which will wake you so you can remind him that it's still nighttime. If he disagrees with you, you can point to the clock and the sign that he helped create. You can find monitor/alarm systems on the web, specialty shops, or at the Alzheimer's Store.

Good luck