Most people would expect the halls of a nursing home to be empty at 2 AM. But this is not the case at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, where the staff has introduced a night care program for patients with dementia. This unusual program for the elderly runs from dusk to dawn, and it has given many grateful caregivers a much-needed night of sleep.
The night care program begins at 7 PM, when the program’s van picks up the elderly from their homes. At the nursing home, the participants are served dinner and participate in group activities like arts and crafts, dancing, night walks, and trips to local events. Those who are less mobile can spend their time in activity rooms listening to music, interacting with staff, and playing with toys or games. There are couches to take naps so patients can take a break during the night. The festivities continue until dawn, when breakfast is served and participants are dropped back home by 7 AM.
This program may seem strange initially, but in reality, it is an ingenious solution to the night-time restlessness exhibited by patients of dementia. In a process known as “sundowning”, those suffering from dementia exhibit a decline in their cognitive and emotional well-being as the day progresses. By evening, the patient can be irritable, have low comprehension levels, feel a desire to wander, and have trouble sleeping. As you can imagine, this can result in a frustrating and tiring night for caregivers. It’s not surprising that the night care program has become popular and successful amongst its participants.
What is surprising is that the dementia is more common than you think. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, half a million Canadians are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s – the leading cause of dementia. Moreover, 50% more Canadians could be facing Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia in just 5 years. The idea of night care therapy is clearly practical and relevant. And given its success in the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, we may soon be seeing the night care therapy program as a new trend in occupational therapy throughout the U.S. and Canada.