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Nightmares With Dementia

Q: Dear Regina, my husband has developed bad nightmares at night. He screams out a lot and it is scary at times. His dementia is so difficult at times and he is having a hard time getting out of the bed in the morning. Once he is up he is fine. Is there something I can do to help him sleep better? I am not sure if he is just tired from not sleeping well or if he is having problems with moving his body. He just says he can’t move.
A: There are a lot of things that could be causing the nightmares. He will need a good assessment. I would look at the side effects of his medication; look at his eating habits like sugar and alcohol before his bedtime; and what is he watching before he goes to sleep? These can all influence nightmares and there are natural ways to decrease them. Then you can look into natural remedies like lavender or, chamomile infusions to help.

People with dementia like Lewy Bodies Dementia are common for nightmares or hallucinations and may have movement problems early in the disease and with Alzheimer’s this usually comes towards the later stages but not all have the nightmares.
His ability to move may need the attention of a neurologist. Until then, try counting to three with rhythmic to help him move or any rhythmic count. People with movement difficulties can usually move smoothly with rhythm. Sing to him and you will see improvement.

Q: Dear Regina, I cannot get my mom to wash her hands after she uses the toilet. I stand by the bathroom door and if I do not hear the running water I tell her to wash her hands and she tells me she already did. This is so bad because her nails are dirty. I can’t take it. She touches everything and doesn’t clean her hands. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Have you tried no words and just going in the bathroom and turning on the faucet and giving her the soap in a friendly manner Or washing your hands with her? Have lotion in the bathroom as well and put on afterwards and enjoy the scent with her. Allow her to experience the task you want her to do with good vibes. Steer away from the demanding attitude and present yourself as friendly and more empowering to her. She may not like being told what to do as it may feel demeaning. Stop for a moment and check your approach. How would you “feel” if she said that to you in the same as you said to her? Try not to explain why she needs to do it, or make her feel as if she is a child. Do it in a way that she will feel that you are working with her, not talking down to her.

Q: Dear Regina, My brother is in a nursing home and he sleeps most of the time. When I go to visit the caregiver takes him to me and he is verbally aggressive towards me. I am not sure why this is happening. The caregiver tells me that he never wants to get up and do anything but eat icecream. How can I have a more pleasant visit with him?
A: Ask when he usually has his icecream and take him out for icecream. Have the caregivers not mentioned you are reason they are waking him. When they take him to you, say. Hello are you ready for your icecream? And ask him to come with you and take him for a walk and enjoy your visit. When you are nearing the end you can enjoy icecream with him or tell him to enjoy it and you will see him again. If icecream is his motivator, then use it. Forcing someone to get up when they do not want to will put them in a bad mood. You must find that one positive motive they have and use it. When you need to get someone to the toilet and they do not want to, the same approach can be used. Don’t mention the toilet. When you get to the bathroom, say, “Oh while we are here let’s get this over with so we can enjoy that…” Be a friend to them not a dictator.

“The wiser mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind.” William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
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