Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Dementia And Night Terrors
I am not posting this as a woe is me thing. I want to try to explain what happens at night, and why there is nothing that can be done.
Night terrors. I don't call them nightmares, because they are not that. What I experience is terror. Nothing less. They are not bad dreams. What I see cannot be classified in any way as a dream.
I have long suffered with sleepless nights. And have coupled this with this horrendous night terrors.
One of the lyrics in the song While I Still Can...tells of these. "And when I fall to sleep, the darkness and the demons steal my dreams, of how things were and how they still could be in a sweeter place".
I still thank God can explain these night terrors. I think about the patients who can't. Who have these and can't sleep. We talk about patents wandering aimlessly through the night but what if they are not wandering aimlessly.
What if they are trying to get away from what I go through as well. I tell you, the things I see while sleeping are unimaginable. I don't know how these things can even be in my mind.
Most times, about 90% of the time I cannot recall these night terrors. What I seen, what it was about, etc. But sometimes I do. I am awakened by my wife, usually because I have been kicking her, hitting her, and at times choking her during these night terrors.
I think sometimes it has to do with some of the things I have seen over the years in EMS. What some people do to other human beings. At the time you deal with it and do what is necessary. When on a bad call for instance you do what is necessary and go on to the next call which is can be worse than the one you just seen.
This is what keeps people like my wife and I in EMS. The unknown. The no one call ever being the same. The idea of helping someone and in many cases saving that persons life. It is a feeling like no other.
But some these images are burned into your memory. I can still see the first baby I preformed CPR on. I can see the many accidents I was on, some you only knew how many victims because of the different clothing you could see. I can see horrific tragedies that happened just because of alcohol or someone using poor judgment.
Horrific suicides. Young and old. Until you cut a thirteen year old down from a barn rafter after hanging himself, you never really know the impact of suicide. Or a sixteen year old Amish boy swimming in a public lake for the first time and drowning. His parents showing up wanting to see him, when I know with all my heart they do not want to see this young man. That memory will and has been burned into their memory forever.
All these things I have seen and much, much more have an effect on what I go through at night I think. But you don't have to be in EMS or Law Enforcement to witness horrible things.
The thing is your mind can make up these things. And that is what happens. Many patients have hallucinations. I thankfully don't have them yet. But my hallucinations come at night.
And I think many other patients suffer from this as well. They simply can't communicate it to anyone. They have long lost the ability to explain anything.
Over the years I have heard it all as to what to try to do to help with these night terrors. People who do this have good intentions. What they don't understand is you can't do anything to stop these.
We have tried everything. From drugs to all the common things one would do to try to be able to get more sleep. The issue here is it is not a lack of sleep thing, its an issue with my brain.
For whatever reason my brain does not allow me to sleep as we are accustomed to. And we all know, or should all know that there isn't a doctor anywhere who can help with the symptoms of this disease.
There are things that can lesson these symptoms. Like anxiety, stress, fear, etc. But there is not a pill made to stop these night terrors. To be able to do this, the drug would have to be able to control the brain. And that hasn't been developed yet.
Dementia patients deal with many things. Couple that with the lack of sleep and you become mentally drained. And you always have this drained feeling because you are always dealing with the symptoms of dementia. They never stop. Never.
What I want people to know that is when your loved one gets up in the middle of the night, it may be much more than just being restless, or just wandering. It may very well be they are trying to get away from something terrible. Something that came to them in their sleep.
I have said for years when a patient wanders outside the home or facility it is because for whatever reason where they are at, they feel threatened or scared. And all they want to do is to get somewhere safe.
Thus, they wander. They may have in their mind they are going home. Somewhere safe. But the home they are thinking of doesn't exist anymore. It could be their childhood home. As patients tend to refer back to their earliest memories.
But they are wanting to get away from something that is scaring them. It could be night terrors. It could be hallucinations.It could be anything. But these are very real to patients. They are as I say "real as rain".
So don't just dismiss it when your loved one is up all hours of the night as they are doing this to aggravate you. What they are doing, they have no control over.
I am in the mid stages of this disease. And I can tell you that I cannot control what happens. If I could, I certainly would. At any cost...
© Rick Phelps 2016.