Long ago I learned that people with dementia reach a point at which they sleep more. I’ve been mindful that would happen, but I wasn’t prepared for the way that is happening with Kate. I just thought she would simply start going to bed earlier and getting up later.
I’ve not been able to identify a consistent pattern for her. Until two years ago, she went to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 and got up early enough for us to get to Panera for a blueberry muffin between 9:00 and 10:00. In addition, she would rest a while after lunch. That would give us time to spend an hour or more at the café at Barnes & Noble before going to dinner.
When she started sleeping as late as 11:00 or 11:30, we stopped going to Panera. It was time for lunch. Along with that, our afternoons changed. She wanted to rest immediately after lunch. That would last as long as two or three hours which took up most of the afternoon. That put an end to our visits to Barnes & Noble.
This pattern changed with the arrival of COVID-19. Kate was losing her ability to work jigsaw puzzles on her iPad long before then, but she lost it completely after we began sheltering. That was her last self-initiated activity and had a significant impact on her sleep and rest. As recently as a year ago, she could easily spend 6-8 hours a day working her puzzles. That lessened during the day because she was either sleeping or resting, but she continued to work on her iPad for an hour or more each night. That meant she got to bed between 8:00 and 9:00.
Without her puzzles, she had nothing to do after dinner. I tried to interest her in looking at her family photo books, but she really needs someone to identify all the people. That was a time when I would try to catch a little of the evening news and get my shower. The result was her going to bed shortly after dinner. Since we have started eating out some evenings, that means she gets to bed around 7:30 although she is rarely asleep when I get in bed.
Several times a few months ago, she refused to get up when I tried to wake her. Before that, she wasn’t always eager to get up, but she never refused. Since that first time, there have been several other times like that. One day she remained in bed until 5:15 in the afternoon. Then she began to wake up early on a few mornings. I am now used to her getting up early almost once a week, sometimes twice.
Until recently, she has always gotten up rather quickly in the afternoon. The exceptions occurred in the last week or ten days. The first time happened when I wanted her to get up for dinner. After a couple of efforts within 15-20 minutes, I let her rest another hour. Then she got up agreeably.
Thursday afternoon last week we had hair appointments at 3:30. She was resting, not asleep, when the sitter arrived for me to meet a friend for coffee. I returned just a few minutes before we needed to leave. She was still resting. I told her it was time for our hair appointments and fully expected her to get up easily. I was wrong. She was just like she has been in the morning. She was very relaxed but also very firm in saying she wasn’t going. I called the stylist and told her I was having trouble getting Kate up and that I might have to cancel. I gave her another ten minutes and tried again. I could see it was no use and rescheduled our appointments.
I stayed in the family room with her while she rested. An hour later she was ready to get up. She was in a good humor. I feel sure she didn’t even remember that I had tried to get her up earlier. It wasn’t long before we left for dinner at Casa Bella and had a good evening. It was as though nothing had happened at all. We both felt good.
Saturday morning she was up very early. I had just gotten up and walked into the bathroom when I heard her moving. She had gotten out of bed. I helped her to the bathroom and took advantage of the early morning and confusion to give her a shower. When we finished, I helped her dress. She wanted to lie down on the bed. Because it was so early, I was happy to tell her that would be all right. That gave me time to comb my hair, shave, and dress. She remained in bed until time for lunch.
Sunday morning, she was up before 9:00. She was unusually cheerful at breakfast. Afterwards, we spent about forty-five minutes looking at one of her family photo books. It didn’t surprise me when she got tired and rested over an hour before lunch.
She awoke early again this morning, about 7:30. I went to her and found that she seemed wide awake and in a good mood. When I told her it looked like she was ready to get up, she said, “I don’t know.” We talked a few minutes. I told her I would be happy to help her get up and dressed. She said she wanted to rest a little more. It’s my day for Rotary, and I like to have her ready for the sitter who comes at noon. We had plenty of time, so I let her continue to rest. I don’t plan to get her up until 11:00. If she wants to stay in bed, I’ll let the sitter handle it.
The only thing that’s clear is that Kate hasn’t settled into a consistent sleep pattern. I’m not sure whether the present irregularity is something that is long-lasting, or she will gravitate to something else. As Kate herself is prone to say, “We’ll see.”