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 loved one. 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 and 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. 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, they have little or no patience, their job may be in jeopardy due to the extra time management hassles, or they may be neglecting areas of their life they once considered important.
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 and 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.
Part of the demand in caring for a loved one can result in what is commonly known as “compassion fatigue.” Family members 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. Depending on the client’s needs and their home, caregivers can do many tasks. If the caregiver does not need to monitor the client at all times for safety, they can do laundry, clean bathrooms, dust, sweep the floors, do dishes and other ‘quiet’ tasks that are done during the daytime hours. 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 can rest knowing their loved one is cared for and household tasks may be done when they wake up!
Consider how different you may feel after a good night sleep. Perhaps having a caregiver every other night or 2-3 nights a week may change your life!