Alzheimer’s and disrupted sleep

Dr. Roman Politi, a local neurologist, will speak on sleep disruption as it pertains to Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers at the upcoming Upper Peninsula Fall Conference held by the Alzheimer’s Association. The event is set for Nov. 9 in the Great Lakes Rooms at Northern Michigan University. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Everybody needs a good night’s rest, right?

Especially Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

Disrupted sleep among Alzheimer’s sufferers and the people who look after them will be one of the major topics of discussion at the 19th Annual Upper Peninsula Fall Conference of the Alzheimer’s Association. The event is scheduled for Nov. 9 in the Great Lakes Rooms at Northern Michigan University.

“It’s an awesome caregiver conference for any caregiver who wants to attend,” said Lindsay Juricek, regional manager of the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The fee is $20 for students and family caregivers, and $65 for professionals, which Juricek said includes nursing and social work professionals taking continuing education.

Roman Politi, M.D., a Marquette-based neurologist with a special interest in treating people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, will speak on sleep issues related to these conditions at one of the conference’s break-out sessions. He also is director of the Upper Michigan Memory Diagnostic Center.

“One of the problems with Alzheimer’s is that the people may not sleep well at night, and they may get up and wander around, and so they can get into trouble at night,” Politi said. “They may fall, and then their spouse may not sleep because they’re up wandering around. So then you have two people who are up in the middle of the night. It causes a lot of grief and caregiver stress.”

That’s why the issue was a requested topic at the conference — it has an impact on the entire family, he said.

Politi will talk about the ways efficient sleep and safety at night can be promoted. They include simple steps like avoiding napping in the daytime, he said, and making sure the patient isn’t having trouble with certain medications that might contribute to insomnia trouble.

“Actually, some of the medications that treat Alzheimer’s can contribute to insomnia, so you kind of get into this catch-22,” Politi said.

He also will address “sun downing,” which happens when people with dementia become confused in the evening.

“It sort of seems like after dinner time, as it gets a little darker, they may become more agitated,” Politi said. “They’ll become a little more delusional, more likely to have hallucinations, maybe become more belligerent. So, that’s unfortunately a stressful time.”

That can lead to everybody being wound up when it’s time to go to bed, said Politi, who noted the conference will include talk on medication approaches and non-medication approaches to the problem.

“It really is a big issue for a lot of our caregivers,” Juricek said.

Juricek mentioned an example of a man, who took off his hearing aid at night, being told by a neighbor that his wife was wandering the streets at 2:30 or 3 in the morning.

He thought she was in bed the whole time, having not heard his wife get up and leave the home.

The simple solution, Juricek said, was to put a chair in front of the door, which “threw her off” on how to escape.

“He’d wake up in the morning and find her sleeping in the chair,” Juricek said, which alerted him to the problem.

“What do you do for somebody who’s hard of hearing, who doesn’t wake up for their spouse, let alone those who are up all night long with their spouse, and insist on, ‘I have to get to work. It’s 3 in the morning,'” Juricek said.

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Margaret P. Calkins, Ph.D., who has spent many years exploring the therapeutic potential of the environment as it relates to frail and impaired older adults, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website.

Her book, “Design for Dementia: Planning Environments for the Elderly and the Confused,” was the first comprehensive design guide for special care units.

Her conference presentation, “Environmental Design’s Impact on Dementia,” will address environmental interventions for home and shared residential settings for those affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia.

People can sign up for the conference by visiting, or calling (800) 272-3900.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is