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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published December 12 2010

Bursack: Mom just wants to take naps

Dear Carol: My mother is 94, and all she wants to do is sleep all day. I live nearby and try to get her to come over to my house or do something at home, but she always says she wants to take a nap. Should I be concerned? – Juana

Dear Juana: There could be a number of reasons why your mom wants to sleep all day. Because of this, she should have a complete physical, and the doctor should be told about her sleep patterns. Her fatigue could be due to a low blood count, an infection or something more serious, or she could be suffering from depression brought on by illness or by her isolation.

Many folks her age have watched their social network die – literally. Years ago, I tried to help my elderly neighbor get his address book up to date. I bought him a new book to replace the one that had become nearly illegible through time. When we sat down to fill in the new book, I asked him a specific friend’s name. My neighbor’s answer was, “Oh, he’s dead.” Down the line we went. After about 10 responses of “He’s dead,” I gave up and found a more cheerful activity. My mother went through a similar situation with her Christmas cards. Every year, there were fewer cards, and most of them brought sad news. As the saying goes, “Aging isn’t for sissies.”

If your mother is isolated from her peers, either because they’ve died or because she is too depressed to seek out company, she needs help. As much as many elders say they want to stay in their own homes, they still need friends, and homes can isolate them.

Although your mother has you nearby, if she doesn’t have activities that she enjoys and people outside of your family for her to interact with, she may do better if she attended adult day care a few days each week or if she moved to an assisted living center. In-home care can also provide companionship. But since you are able to see her often and apparently take care of her needs and she is still having trouble, that type of care may not be enough.

Please get her to a doctor for a checkup. Even if her health is good, ask the doctor for suggestions. Most elders who have a social network do better physically and mentally, and there are various ways to accomplish this. See what the doctor thinks, but do consider a change. It seems your mom’s quality of life could be better.


Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.