Perhaps you’ve heard about the administrator who spent a week as a resident in his long-term care facility. After being roused from sleep daily to receive medications that could have been dispensed later in the day, he banned his physicians from unnecessarily prescribing meds during night hours.
That’s an excellent way of attending to sleep hygiene, an important and often overlooked aspect of wellbeing for residents and staff alike.
Sleep challenges of older adults
By the time residents arrive at our doors, their sleep is likely to be affected by influences such as illness and pain. In addition, there are changes in circadian rhythms as people age, leading to increased wakefulness earlier in the morning and fatigue earlier in the evening, according to an article in this month’s American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology.
While we can’t alter some of these factors, as care providers we can become more attuned to the importance of sleep for our residents and train our teams to create environments that are more conducive to slumber.
Impact on care
Poor sleep is associated with cognitive and physical deficits. It can impair residents’ ability to participate in rehab and negatively affect their moods and their interactions with others, including the staff members there to help them (whose job is hard enough).
Residents who can’t sleep through the night due to elements within the control of the facility are not happy with this situation. They’re less satisfied with their stays and therefore less likely to recommend the facility to their friends and neighbors.
As illuminating as it would be, you needn’t sleep in your facility for a week to find out which staff training and policies will remedy the problem. The residents have told me what keeps them up at night and I’ve outlined a “sleep hygiene” training program based on that.