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What to Do If Your Senior Loved Ones are Afraid to be Alone at Night



For younger people, the nighttime can be an exciting part of the day. But the opposite can be said of the nighttime for elderly individuals. Seniors are more prone to tripping and falling, and the lack of light during the night increases the risk for accidents. This can make them and loved ones feel hesitant about being at home alone throughout the night. Ideally, adult children and other loved ones could stay overnight to care for and provide some comfort for their elderly loved ones, but that is not always plausible.

For some elderly individuals, the nighttime can be frightening due to the conditions they have, including Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. For example, if your elderly loved one has a form of dementia, then they might wake up at night in a confused state, prompting them to wander about. Sometimes, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients will even try to leave their home while they wander, so it can be dangerous and scary.

Seniors may also fear the nighttime due to Sundowning syndrome. This condition can be an indicator of the start of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it also affects elderly individuals who do not suffer from any type of dementia. Sundowning syndrome is a condition where elderly individuals experience mental and behavioral changes once the sun sets and the evening arrives. This can cause anxiety, aggression, and confusion. Per the Mayo Clinic, the lack of light and decreased exposure to light might be what triggers the condition’s symptoms, but the exact cause is unclear. Regardless of why your senior loved one is afraid at night, it is important that you do what you can to ease their fear and ensure their comfort. It may not be an easy task, but there are numerous ways to help elderly individuals feel safer at night.

1. Get Help from a Professional Elderly Care Service

While many adult children and other loved ones may want to stay with their elderly relatives during the night, it is often not a plausible option for them. They may have their own families to care for, or they may not live near the elderly loved ones. No matter the reason, this does not mean seniors are helpless and will need to be left on their own at home during the nighttime. There are numerous types of elderly care services available to help seniors live safely and comfortably at home. For example, if your elderly relative has dementia, there are caregivers who specialize in providing dementia home care services. If seniors just need everyday household help and someone to provide company, they can benefit from companion care services. If you and another family member act as an informal caregiver to an elderly loved one, there are respite care services available where a professional caregiver can take over to provide time off to the family caregiver. Simply being by themselves — especially at night — might be enough to give seniors anxiety, so having a qualified professional around to help them can ease those negative feelings.

2. Improve the Safety of their Living Space

You cannot stop the night and its inevitable darkness from coming each day, but you can add light to your elderly loved one’s home. This can make the dark seem less frightening and make their home safer to live in. Make sure there is ample lighting throughout the home by adding night lights. Furthermore, ask your elderly loved one about what makes the nighttime an unsettling time for them. From there, look into what you can do to combat such anxiety.

3. Monitor and Assess Nighttime Routines and Sleeping Habits

The way seniors use their time during the night can affect their sleeping habits and nighttime behavior. In the same way small kids may have nightmares due to a scary movie before bed, seniors can be jarred by watching violent, aggressive movies and television shows before bed. For seniors with cognitive impairments, these forms of entertainment could be confused for reality. Keep an eye out for any nighttime activities that can be unsettling for seniors and do what you can to help establish a calmer, more relaxing environment. If your elderly loved ones like to watch TV and/or movies before bed, consider having them watch more light-hearted forms of entertainment.

4. Evaluate and Change Seniors’ Diets

Seniors may experience changes in mood or behavior at night because of hunger or thirst, so consider asking about these needs if your loved ones seem agitated or irritable. However, caregivers need to be wary of what elderly individuals consume before going to bed. Alcohol and caffeine can trigger anxiety and other negative behaviors, so drinks containing such should be avoided during the afternoon and evening.

Learn more about Good and Bad Foods for Seniors’ Brain Health

Elderly Home Care Services from Assisting Hands

Elderly Home Care Deerfield Illinois

Whether it is due to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, Sundowning syndrome, or any other reason, seniors who feel uneasy and afraid during the night do not need to go through it alone. With professional elderly home care services, seniors can have a caregiver who will help make the nighttime a less scary time for them. At Assisting Hands Home Care, we offer elderly home care services in  Highland ParkLake ForestLake ZurichLincolnshireMundeleinVernon Hills and the neighboring areas in Cook and Lake Counties.

We also have more specialized services, such as companion care and dementia care, to better cater to seniors who have more specific home care needs. We can even help out family caregivers through our respite care services. With help from our caregivers, your elderly loved ones can have a more comfortable time in their homes during the night. Call us at (224) 268-9068 to schedule your free in-home consultation.