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Elderly woman in wheelchair pondering at night at assisted living home.

Study: 9 out of 10 Dementia Caregivers Suffer from Sleep Deprivation

If you’re the one person who sleeps like a baby while caring for a family member with dementia, scores of people want to know your secret. But if you’re like 90 percent of the population caring for someone who is losing their memory, you’re most likely sleep deprived. In fact, a recent study published by the University at Buffalo School of Nursing found that 9 out of 10 dementia caregivers got less than six hours of sleep each night. Even worse, they woke up as often as four times per hour. Talk about a nightmare. The problem for caregivers is multifaceted and widespread: Nearly 6 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease. When family members and loved ones are factored into the equation, there are roughly 16 million people affected by the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Such disruptions can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and place caregivers at risk for depression, weight gain, heart disease and premature death, according to lead authors Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, and Richard E. Garman, Endowed Professor in the UB School of Nursing. “These disruptions have negative effects on caregivers’ health,” says Chang, “which in turn will diminish their ability to provide optimal care.” It’s vicious cycle. So what are dementia caregivers to do?

Helping Families Cope with Dementia

“Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be a stressful endeavor, leaving people exhausted, isolated and overwhelmed,” says Dr. Elaine Healy, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Medical Director at United Hebrew. “It’s important for dementia caregivers to find ways to take care of themselves so that they don’t burn out, or become patients themselves.” Because it is beneficial for caregivers to take a break and get away from the stress, United Hebrew offers its Respite Care Program, which enables caregivers and family members to take a break or go on vacation by providing a patient the comfort and care of United Hebrew’s top-rated nursing home amenities, according to Dr. Healy. United Hebrew’s respite program is open to adults with sub-acute, chronic, or terminal illnesses who require supervision, monitoring, and medication management. It’s also beneficial for caregivers to talk with others who understand what they are going through, according Dr. Nora O’Brien, executive director of United Hebrew’s Willow Towers Assisted Living and Willow Gardens Memory Care, Westchester County’s premier assisted living facility dedicated exclusively to caring for those with memory impairments. “It important and incredibly therapeutic for a person to share their concerns and frustrations in a supportive environment,” says Dr. O’Brien. “Caregiver groups not only help form supportive relationships, but offer practical tips and lessons that are helpful for caring for a loved-one.” Additional benefits of attending a support group include receiving practical advice, learning about available resources and improving coping skills along with a general sense of taking control over one situation, according to Dr. O’Brien. The caregiver support group meets from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in the Palm Court Room at Willow Gardens Memory Care at 60 Willow Drive in New Rochelle. For more information about dementia care at United Hebrew of New Rochelle, please call 914-632-2804 to speak with an eldercare specialist.