A Guide to Bedtime Comfort and Safety for Seniors
Are you caring for an elderly parent or grandparent? Do you worry about a beloved senior who's living alone? If so, there are many things you can do to keep them safe and comfortable throughout the day. However, providing the same level of care and comfort becomes more difficult at bedtime. After all, you have to sleep sometimes, too!
Creating a Comfortable Sleeping Space
Is your senior's bedroom a cozy place to sleep? Can they read in bed comfortably? Do they have everything they need at hand? Can they get to the bathroom safely? Will they stay warm enough? These are essential questions to ask yourself, and a senior loved one.
A great bed equals great sleep
It's easier to sleep in a comfortable room, and the biggest factor in that comfort is the bed. A nice headboard and sturdy frame are good, but the most important component of a comfortable bed is the mattress. A lumpy, worn-out mattress will pretty much ensure that the sleeper will spend an uncomfortable night.
Making sure that your loved one has a quality mattress is the first step you should take towards a comfortable sleeping space. If they suffer from back or joint pain, the proper mattress can provide some much needed gentle support.
Since seniors sometimes have problems with 'leakage,' it's a good idea to protect that new mattress with a leak-proof mattress pad. It will protect the bed and prevent any regrets resulting from an unavoidable accident.
That quality mattress deserves quality bedding
Splurging on quality sheets adds a luxurious touch that a senior probably wouldn't treat themselves to—but you can! Cheap sheets tend to develop pills and wrinkles that are just annoying enough to make sleeping uncomfortable. Luxury bedding sets may cost more, but they are an investment in their comfort for many nights to come.
Flannel sheets are warmer in the winter while percale sheets are more cooling in summer. Since temperature affects the quality of sleep, it's probably a good idea to invest in different types of sheets and pillowcases for different seasons.
A down comforter is both warmer and lighter than a standard comforter and is a luxury many seniors would enjoy. A duvet cover will protect the bedding and is easier to clean than the much larger quilt. However, removing and replacing a duvet cover is not a job for a senior to tackle alone!
Bedtime necessities are a must
Where is your senior loved one going to keep their eyeglasses and other nighttime essentials? Many seniors suffer from a dry mouth (especially at night) and need to have a drink within easy reach. They may also need to have medication nearby. Having a bottle of lotion handy is good for that dry elderly skin.
It's also essential that they have a phone or medical alert device within easy reach in case of an emergency. A lamp allows them to read in bed or see to take those pills. Choosing a touch lamp that turns on and off with a simple tap on the base is a lot easier on old hands than one with a fiddly knob that's hard to even find in the dark.
A nightstand will fulfill all of these needs nicely. One with rounded edges and corners is safer and less likely to cause painful bruising they bump into it. It's common for seniors to develop some pretty spectacular bruising from an impact they didn't even notice!
Provide a little extra comfort
Seniors often sleep better in a more elevated position. Just think of how many times you've seen them dozing peacefully in a chair! Even if they don't always want an extra pillow on the bed, it's nice to provide one nearby 'just in case.' The same goes for an extra blanket (or two!). It's common for seniors to feel chilly in a room that seems overheated to younger people.
That is because their metabolism has slowed down with age and their skin no longer insulates with a thin layer of fat. Medical conditions that restrict blood flow, along with the medications used to treat them, can also contribute to a senior who is always cold.
Provide an extra pillow and a couple of warm throws in a large basket near the bed. Throws are smaller and lighter than actual blankets, so they're easier for a chilled senior to handle by themselves. Many seniors would spend the night slightly chilled rather than wake someone up to help them with a heavy blanket. A basket with a lid will help protect the extra bedding from dust between uses. Just make sure that it's easy for your senior to get the top off by themselves.
A bed tray makes it easier for your senior to read in bed and it also lets you or the grandchildren pamper them with an occasional breakfast in bed! A low lip will help keep spills and crumbs off the bedding. Just make sure the rim isn't uncomfortable on their wrists while reading.
Keeping them safe
Many seniors have to make at least one trip to the bathroom during the night. Doing so in the dark puts them at higher risk of a dangerous fall. Adding automatic nightlights along their path to the bathroom can help prevent a fall during the night. Keeping a pair of slippers with non-slip soles and a robe on a wall hook next to their bed can keep them from getting chilled during their nightly treks.
What if they need help?
If you're caring for someone with Alzheimer's or another serious condition that makes it unsafe for them to be up and about by themselves, you may need some additional safety devices.
- A call button like hospitals use lets them request help without the indignity of having to shout for someone to help them. If a call button reminds them too much of being in a hospital, a pretty bell will also summon help as long as it's loud enough.
- Bed safety rails can keep them from falling out of bed and might discourage them from trying to get up on their own.
- Alert pads on the bed and the floor will sound an alarm if they try to get out of bed by themselves. It is a particularly important precaution for Alzheimer's patients who wander. Their condition may prevent them from recognizing the danger of going for a stroll in a midnight blizzard.