A large number of the elderly population spends their remaining years in assisted living facilities. New studies have brought to light the effects these sorts of facilities have on an older person’s mental and physical wellbeing.
The research conducted in Los Angeles by lead author Jennifer Martin, PhD of the University of California Los Angeles and VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System suggests that 65 percent of the elderly in assisted living facilities aren’t able to get the necessary amounts of sleep they need to maintain good health.
“Our study has shown that sleep disturbance may result in negative consequences among this vulnerable group of older people,” said Martin. Currently, there are an estimated 611,000 to over one million senior residents living in assisted living facilities.
The study inquired about the sleep behaviors of 121 people living in assisted living facilities. Of this group, a majority reported to getting less than an average of six hours of sleep a night, with about an hour and a half of naps during the day.
Sleep deprivation has negative effects on anyone, especially in later life.
Seniors had reported having significant problems sleeping through the night. They cited sleep disturbances as a main problem. For some reason or another, they would wake in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Once awake, seniors would struggle for 30 minutes before being able to fall back asleep.
Participants in this study showed that after only six months of being in an assisted living facility their quality of life worsened. They weren’t able to do simple tasks such as taking a bath, getting dressed and even personal grooming without any help. In this short amount of time, symptoms of depression had surfaced, an unsurprising problem that can occur with lack of sleep.
It was never identified why seniors were getting less sleep. However, the study does provide evidence that there are ways facilities can improve their quality of care, and thus improve the lifestyles of their residents.
“Unlike some predictors of functional decline and depression, there are established, effective treatments to improve sleep,” said Martin, who suggests that future studies should look at ways to adapt techniques that can be used by assisted living facilities to promote mental and physical health in older people.
The facilities could also incorporate techniques such as altering the environment and providing light therapy to their residents.