The Dementia Caretaker’s Dilemma: Sleeplessness and Our Family’s Solution

How thoughtful design and new technology helped my family keep Grandma living at home

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Four generations living under one roof. From left: Lisa's parents, grandmother, children, Lisa, and husband. 

By Lisa M. Cini

We all know how miserable life can be without a good night’s sleep. Sleep is especially important when there’s a lack of sunshine. Given how much time we spend inside during the winter (up to 90% of our day some studies say), we could all use more sunshine and/or shuteye. Sunshine kicks off our circadian rhythm which is what sets our body clock to enable us to sleep well at night. When we don’t have enough sun or sleep, we can feel depressed, anxious, excessively tired or irritable. I’m sure your family can elaborate on that the last one if you’ve ever been really sleep deprived.

The reality in my house right now is this – a colicky baby, only 100 times worse. How is that possible you say? Well, the 5’6”, 135 lb. sleepless woman I’m speaking of can’t hear very well and has dementia. My normally beautiful and pleasant 96-year-old grandmother lives with me, and right now, she isn’t sleeping.

Our house, in which lives myself, my husband, two kids, my parents, and my grandmother has become like the Russian sleep experiment in the 1940’s where they see how long you can stay awake before going crazy. Its 11pm and my grandmother been up for almost 62 hours. She thinks we are lying to her about her grandsons, who are in actuality my brothers; she keeps telling me that something is horribly wrong with them and pleads with me to tell her. I’m worn out, my husband is exhausted, my parents are teetering on sleep deprived and my beautiful, kind, classy grandmother has become a mean, paranoid, delusional night walker.

This isn’t the typical sundowning episode that causes many people’s dementia symptoms to worsen with decreased light in the afternoon or evening. This is new, 3-day night walking event is the third since Thanksgiving.

Things run pretty smooth and my mother is the primary caregiver for my grandmother.

Before these episodes began, things ran pretty smoothly with my mother as the primary caregiver for my grandmother. However, in the last few months, things have become sad and extremely challenging for everyone in our house. I never imagined that I would consider sending my grandmother to a memory care home, especially one in the price range we could afford; but, during this third incident, the thought more than just crossed my mind.

I keep thinking of my grandma and reminding myself how wonderful she has always been to all of us. It’s particularly tough to witness what seems like some evil that has taken over her body. At this point I’ll do just about anything to get my grandmother or our lives back.

Enter, the MIRACLE. Recently, I attended a futurist tech conference in LA and was introduced to a gadget that helped our family go from being an Agatha Christy novel with people scheming how to get rid of grandma (to put your mind at ease, no murder was ever spoken about), to being a story of divine intervention, where the clouds of confusion, paranoia and irritation were lifted and best of all, we all returned to sleeping 8 hours per night.

This fairy-tale gadget looks like an Ipod with ear buds. Instead of music though, light is pulsed for 12 minutes into the ear and reaches the skull. This kicks off the circadian cycle and resets the body clock promoting a normal sleep schedule.

The research behind this miracle device is so solid physicians have begun using it to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), jet lag and elite athletes with chronic sleep issues. While all those uses are impressive, nothing is more so than the fact that since we started using the device, my grandmother has slept through the night, every night!! This little light device has taken our lives from miserable to magical.

If you would like to learn more about how to sleep better or help someone you love to sleep better click here. My hope is that no one will ever have to experience what our family did this holiday and I’d bet you don’t have to with use of this simple tech gadget that can change life for the better.

Originally published at

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