By JOE DeLAUTER
Special to the Sun-Gazette
Q.: We're trying to evaluate our 88-year-old father's possible caregiving needs as he slows down. While he has remained relatively healthy for his age, he's finally open to accepting help during the day with things such as housekeeping and meals.
When I wondered about the night hours, he was adamant that he sleeps through the night and doesn't need anyone to stay with him.
I always thought the older a person gets, the more they stir around at night and are susceptible to accidents.
Isn't that true?
A.: Seniors often complain of sleeping difficulties, so most people assume there is a connection between old age and sleeping problems.
But that is not necessarily so, according to a recent study, which found that most healthy people 65 and older report sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. as they should. The commonly held assumptions are that most seniors go to bed early and have trouble sleeping through the night, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Sleep and Chronobiology Center and University Center for Social and Urban Research.
About 25 percent of the study participants said they slept fewer than 6.7 hours per night and experienced problems with nocturnal sleep and daytime sleepiness. The remaining 75 percent reported sleeping more than 6.75 hours, on average.
"The take-away for older adults is that if you can keep yourself healthy and avoid or treat age-related diseases and disorders, then you'll be able to sleep like a younger adult," said Dr. Timothy H. Monk, the study's lead author and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. "Although some seniors do have sleep problems that need to be understood and treated, the majority of seniors are not reporting significant problems with either nocturnal sleep or daytime sleepiness."
If you can find the time, try to spend two consecutive nights or more with your father at his house to get a feel for how he's sleeping.
When you're ready to decide on a professional caregiver, call your local Home Instead Senior Care office. CAREGivers can be scheduled for as little as three hours a week or even on a 24/7 basis.
CAREGivers are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and can provide light housekeeping, meal preparation, medication reminders, companionship and transportation.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533. DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.