This blog was originally published on Sept. 9, 2019, and was updated on Oct. 4, 2022.
Fatigue is a common concern for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. In this blog, The Bristal’s team of memory care experts share the common causes for low-energy in seniors with dementia and tips for how to improve energy. The Bristal offers specialized memory care for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease in communities throughout the tri-state area.
Dementia fatigue is a term used to describe the low energy levels common in early Alzheimer’s. While people often associate memory loss and confusion with the beginning stages of the disease, decreased energy is an equally challenging symptom to manage.
Determining the causes and finding ways to safely improve energy levels without increasing agitation can help you improve the quality of life of your loved one.
What Causes Dementia Tiredness and Fatigue for People with Alzheimer’s?
Increased sleepiness isn’t unusual during the later stages of dementia. A variety of factors may contribute to tiredness and low energy for a person living with Alzheimer’s.
It is estimated that anywhere from 40-50 percent of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease also suffer from depression, according to Johns Hopkins. The physical and emotional challenges the disease creates are the likely culprits. A loss of independence, lower self-esteem, problems concentrating, and involuntary lifestyle changes are all contributing factors for developing depression after being diagnosed with dementia.
Another factor in reduced energy levels may be difficulty sleeping. Researchers believe the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disrupts the body’s internal clock. That, in turn, creates problems sleeping. Even though they may be physically exhausted, a person with Alzheimer’s may be unable to sleep for extended periods.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications commonly prescribed for older adults can cause drowsiness and fatigue. Blood pressure medicines, statins, proton pump inhibitors (PPI), benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antihistamines may all contribute to excessive sleepiness.
Lack of a balanced diet and too many sugary foods can lead to vitamin deficiencies. Being deficient in vitamins D or B can cause fatigue, as can low levels of copper, iron, or magnesium.
Thyroid disease becomes more common with aging. If your senior loved one hasn’t had their thyroid tested, talk with their primary care physician about it. You might find they are living with hypothyroidism.
Related: Study Shows New Link Between Lack of Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease >>
Is Tiredness a Warning Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Excessive tiredness and low energy are common as the disease progresses. And excessive daytime sleepiness has been linked to accelerated brain aging. However, tiredness by itself is not necessarily a sign that someone has Alzheimer’s.
If you or a loved one has noticed a drastic change in energy levels throughout the day, it’s best to consult with a doctor. There may be a variety of reasons for this shift.
How to Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Overcome Dementia Fatigue
Fortunately, many of the underlying conditions that may be contributing to low energy, tiredness, and dementia fatigue can be treated.
Here are a few steps you can take to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease improve their energy level.
1. Schedule an appointment with their primary care physician
The doctor can help evaluate your loved one for problems such as iron deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, and thyroid disease. A family physician can also assess them for depression and make treatment recommendations. If you suspect one of their medications may be the cause of their fatigue, ask if an alternative might be available.
2. Adopt a Mediterranean-style diet
Focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, lean meats, and fish. Work on reducing or eliminating pasta, white flour products, pastries, and sugary drinks. Several studies suggest that eating a Mediterranean diet may help slow the development of Alzheimer’s. Additionally, it can improve your aging loved one’s nutritional intake while helping to keep their blood sugar stable.
Related: Try the MIND Diet for Better Cognitive Health >>
3. Investigate methods for managing agitation and anxiety
If you suspect that agitation and anxiety might be causing sleepless nights for your loved one with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Center has a variety of information, resources and coping strategies for families.
Related: 7 Helpful Relaxation Techniques for People with Dementia >>
4. Create an inviting sleep environment at bedtime
Many people with Alzheimer’s wake up more often and stay awake longer at night. Helping them stay active during the day and ease into a bedtime routine at night may improve their sleep quality. This may also help reduce the symptoms of sundowning.
Related: How Essential Oils Can Help People With Dementia Sleep Better >>
The Bristal at Lake Success -- a community devoted entirely to memory care
A memory care only community, The Bristal at Lake Success pairs luxury senior living with cutting-edge memory care. Here, seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia benefit from our individualized approach to memory care that is backed by research from the Feinstein Institute of Northwell Health.
To learn more about The Bristal at Lake Success, click on the link below to schedule a tour.
Schedule a tour at The Bristal at Lake Success