Calming Restless Leg Syndrome: Caregiver Tips

A restless leg keeps you awake even when you’re settling in bed for a good night’s sleep. You may feel a jittery sensation in your legs along with tough needs to move them. These feelings are so uncomfortable and irritating that you have to get up and walk around the bedroom until these nasty feelings finally fade.

These unusual sensations are a reality for many older adults and are symptoms of a medical condition known as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). This condition is usually diagnosed in people over the age of 50, and it affects an estimated 10% of older adults. Several with this condition view their situation as nothing more than an annoyance. They also neglect to tell their doctor about their discomfort and let it go untreated. For others, the condition might disappear for a time for no obvious reason only to persist a few months later. If we are a caregiver of a loved one with RLS, knowing more about the condition helps us know what they are going through. We may as well discover different techniques to help them find relief.  

Getting Used to with RLS

A particular symptom that may be more inconvenient to patients with RLS is a jerking feeling that may befall at almost any age even though people over 50 are most likely to suffer from the condition. The uneasiness makes it nearly impossible for those with restless legs to get a good night’s sleep. Consequently, our loved one with RLS could spend much of the day feeling sleepy simply because they are incapable of getting a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

What causes restless legs is not clear, and the causes of its disruptive symptoms have not yet been identified. Nonetheless, several medical experts believe that a failing nervous system may be accountable for restless legs. Accordingly, restless legs have also been linked to:

  • Iron deficiencies
  • Kidney disorders
  • Alcoholism
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Folic acid deficiencies
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lack of certain vitamins such as Vitamin B12

If a loved one complains about these symptoms, we must recommend that they make an appointment with their physician to discuss these symptoms. Their physician may recommend a check for vitamin or iron deficiencies that might be the reason for the condition.

RLS can also be genetic. Around 40% of those who suffer the condition report having a family history of the condition. 

Treating RLS

Even though there is no particular cure for RLS, several treatments and lifestyle changes are accessible to manage a loved one’s restless legs and lessen their feelings of discomfort. We can work together with our loved one and their physician to establish a plan on how to manage their symptoms with suitable medications and home remedies to relieve discomforts. Some of these may include:

1. Filling a bathtub with warm water for a loved one to soak in

2. Ibuprofen or other over-the-counter pain relievers

3. Leg massages that may frequently help quiet hyperactive muscles

4. Making sure a loved one’s bedroom is comfortable and quiet

5. Alternating warm packs with cool packs

6. Before bedtime, offer them a drink of herbal or other caffeine-free warm drinks

7. Encouraging a loved one to go to bed at the same time each night

8. Asking the doctor of the loved one about adding dietary supplements such as vitamin B, iron, or folic acid to help control restless legs 

9. Encouraging a loved one to stop smoking. Smoking can worsen the symptoms of RLS

10. Helping a loved one stay active. Let them have an easy exercise into their daily routine. Approval from the physician is important before engaging them in exercise. Activities to consider may include:

  • Sweeping the kitchen floor
  • Visiting friends
  • Strolling around the block
  • Gardening
  • Meditating
  • Doing yoga stretches

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