Family caregivers who provide overnight care for the elderly can underestimate how the lack of sleep can effect their well-being. What are the downsides to losing sleep and how can overnight care assist you?
Overwhelmed and Exhausted: Overnight Care for Elderly Loved Ones
Sleep. Deep, relaxing, rejuvenating sleep. This is something that can be sorely lacking in the world of a family caregiver. Their loved one has their ‘days and nights mixed up.’ There are times during the night they need to physically assist their loved one to the bathroom. Or they simply cannot fall asleep due to stress and worry. The lack of sleep can have serious health consequences.
When I perform a client assessment, a key question I ask each family caregiver is, “How are you?”
It is essential for the caregiver to stay healthy and a good night’s sleep is vital. Families have been surprised when I ask how their lives would be different if they were able to sleep more.
Many have never considered having overnight care for their elderly loved one, let alone home care services in general. They’ve considered a nursing home, day care, or assisted living and never knew this type of live in care existed.
Usually, their request for elder care is limited to daytime hours. In this scenario, the caregiver from the home care agency provides companion or personal care.
The family caregiver manages the other aspects of their life and assumes the role of primary caregiver in the evening.
The Consequences of Losing Sleep
But, these families often don’t realize how even a few extra nighttime hours of care can exact a toll on their well-being in the long term. Losing even an hour of sleep can result in impaired learning and responding, impairment of the cardiovascular system, as well as impair your body’s ability to fight infections.
Furthermore, tasks are started but not finished. Family caregivers have little or no patience. Their job may be in jeopardy due to the extra time management hassles.
They may even be neglecting areas of their life they once considered important.
Overnight Caregiving and its Toll
It just makes sense when you add everything up: You’re working, you’re spending time with your family, you’re arranging care options and/or home health for your loved one.
Then you’re the one caring for them during the evening hours.
You have less energy, you can’t recover physically/mentally, and being a family care provider is very demanding and stressful on its own.
Caregivers often find themselves with a condition commonly known as “compassion fatigue.”
Family members who provide overnight care for elderly loved ones can begin to psychologically take on the struggles and suffering of their loved ones.
Here’s a great video clip of Patricia Smith, Founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, explaining it in more detail:
The Benefit of Overnight Caregivers
Overnight caregivers not only allow the family caregivers to sleep, their care plan can include assisting with household tasks.
“Do overnight caregivers sleep?”
That mainly depends on the client’s needs and their home. However, for the majority of cases, caregivers do not sleep. In fact, caregivers do many tasks and other activities of daily living while the client is sleeping.
The Duties of An Overnight Caregiver
The caregiver can take care of a number of household tasks if a client does not need constant monitoring for safety reasons.
- Cleaning the bathrooms
- Sweeping the floors
- Washing the dishes
- Other ‘quiet’ tasks normally assigned in daytime hours
For instance, if the client has their days and nights reversed, they can work on these tasks together.
It is not uncommon for people with dementia to be awake at night. Instead of trying to ‘insist’ the client go back to sleep, the caregiver can keep the client busy until he/she wants to go back to sleep.
Families rest knowing their loved one is receiving the care they need. Household tasks may be done when they wake up!
Consider how different you may feel after a good night sleep. Even 2-3 nights a week may change your life!