Dementia–Sleeping too much, or sleeping out of boredom?

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My aunt is seventy-five. She goes to bed around 9 and sleeps at least twelve hours. She usually takes a nap after lunch. We’ve had her medications adjusted due to her excessive sleeping. She’s sleeping even more now that she’s off the meds that might have caused drowsiness.

She told me flat-out the night before last that she’s just plain bored. She can’t walk or stand for very long so it’s hard for her to go to the store, or the library, or pretty much anywhere. She’s not up to reading because she has no short-term memory. She’s not interested in art. She has always been a social person and she enjoyed the company of other people her age when she was in the hospital under observation. She liked hanging out in the common room with the TV on and several people around to talk to. She can’t do the things she used to do when she was younger…sewing clothes and curtains and doing intricate crewel and embroidery, or refinishing a piece of furniture that she bought at a yard sale. She has no hobbies now as a result of her short-term memory loss and her physical limitations.

She is a retired LPN and worked in a nursing home for several years. She knows the kind of activities and programs available to nursing home residents and that’s what she wants access to. And she wants to be with people who are like her. While she’s at home, waiting for a place in a nursing home, she’s staying in bed longer than she used to and napping in her recliner because she doesn’t know what else to do. She doesn’t want to have to get in the car and go to the senior center and be around people she doesn’t know. She wants to live in a facility with the same people day in and day out and walk down the hallway to a room where she can sit and watch TV and have a conversation with someone who isn’t a caregiver.

So if your loved one with dementia seems to be sleeping too much, trying to find out if he or she is just bored. Some people with dementia may be able to pursue hobbies at home, depending on what the activity is and if the person is an introvert or an extrovert. An extrovert like my aunt may crave social interaction. An introvert may need to be introduced to new activities that are relatively solitary: art, simple crocheting or knitting, jigsaw puzzles, listening to books on tape.

You must listen to the person when dementia is distracted for a few moments and your loved one is lucid in order to understand what type of mental stimulation they need. The dementia patient with no mental stimulation is the one who “goes downhill” quickly, stays in bed, and becomes uncommunicative at odds with the progression of their dementia.

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2 thoughts on “Dementia–Sleeping too much, or sleeping out of boredom?

  1. Have you tried reading to her? Maybe a book she loved as a child? Does she like listening to music? I didn’t realize she had short-term memory problems. I’m sure a routine is soothing to someone with that.

  2. Routine is a must. Everything being in the same place is a must. She’s never had albums, a record player, a radio that I recall. She has a piano but I’ve never heard her play it. She might listen to reading aloud for a short while. She seems a little interested in news items I find online. She took her two small children and left an abusive husband and she just worked her butt off until she retired and I don’t think she really had any hobbies. She waitressed for a long time. Then she went to nursing school. She bought a nice little house and she enjoyed shopping at yard sales and thrift stores and she always had a great talent for decorating but she doesn’t want to bring any new things into the house now. She wants to give her things away to her daughter and the rest of us who are helping her. It’s depressing and frustrating, but since she is a retired nurse who worked in nursing homes, I suppose she knows what environment and activities she needs.

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