Sleepless Nights and Dreamy Days
As my dear old dad becomes older and frailer his needs are increasing. As often happens with older people his sleep pattern is reversing and he spends a lot of time asleep during the day. He also spends a great deal of time sleeping during the night but over the past few days and weeks his nights have become more broken.
My dad sleeps downstairs in his own private bed-sit area. He uses one of those battery operated doorbells to call for assistance if needed. Over the past few days the demands on my time have increased. He rang his bell so often that in the end it became easier to sit by him, put a cushion under my head and doze.
It's always easier to see things in others. I hadn't really noticed the extent to which I was becoming tired. Having pulled a good few night shifts in my time I know how it feels to function at a stage below capacity. At one level I knew things couldn't continue the way they were but at another I didn't fully realize the level or extent to which I was feeling fatigued.
I've even been practicing some things that I preach! My family is fully involved. They give me and my dad emotional and practical support. Other support services and the family doctor have been faultless in the speed and regularity to which they respond. In other words the infrastructure of care around my dad is excellent and I have no complaints.
Fatigue is something all caregivers need to be aware of. It creeps up. Even with excellent support the fact is most services operate during daylight hours. This leaves the night and it's a time when many people with cognitive impairment seem to come to life! My dad's sleepless nights and dreamy days have become infectious. I find I'm drowsy, more emotional, forgetful (even more than usual), and in a state of vigilance. Switching off has become more and more difficult and I know I have to make some more changes in the way I handle things. But when you are tired it is difficult to know where to start and to prioritize. The list has to go something like this:
- Get professional caregiver in for two nights a week giving me time to recharge and give a bit more time to my husband and daughter.
- Give up a bit of control! Realize that I have to allow other family members to assist him in their own way and not impose my way as the only way!
- Just because I was a nurse in charge does not mean I have to take all the decisions about his healthcare. Nurses and doctors have more experience in different areas to me. I am allowed to stand back a bit and take advice!
- Because caregiving is a roller coaster ride I have to find a way of trying to relax enough to get sleep when I can. There are a number of techniques I can use; Thought Stopping technique (to help deal with repetitive thoughts that come much more frequently at night).
- I will start using more stress reduction exercises such as How to Think More Positively and How to deal with Excessive Stress