Those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease know that as the day winds down, the stressors can ramp up. Sundowning, a common experience in dementia in which seniors become agitated, fearful, and restless during the evening hours, is exhausting for all involved. Aggravations escalate as members of the family try to keep the elderly adult calm and safe, while trying to get some rest themselves.
One special program offers a solution: overnight care that caters specifically to those exhibiting sundowning symptoms. Described as a slumber party atmosphere, older persons take part in a full selection of structured activities in a protected environment: music and dancing, puzzles, movies, meal preparation, and more – delivering family caregivers a much appreciated chance to rest themselves. “Many family members want to care for relatives with Alzheimer’s at home, but in order to do that, the caregivers themselves have to remain healthy. You cannot stay healthy if you don’t get a good night’s sleep,” explains Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
However, there are several other measures one can take to try to restore healthy sleep patterns for those with Alzheimer’s.
- Try having the older person exercise early in the day, every day.
- It is important to let the senior have exposure to the morning sunlight.
- Adhere to a set routine for bedtime, wake-up time, and meals.
- Use a softly lit nightlight at nighttime and keep the bedroom a comfortable temperature.
- Have the senior avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
- When the senior becomes restless or is unable to sleep, have him or her get out of bed, leaving the bed for sleeping only.
- Find calming, quiet activities to do together during wakeful times, but avoid watching television.
The physician may also want to try particular medications if none of the non-drug approaches are helping, including:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Particular antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are connected to a rise of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed carefully)
- Medications to aide in falling and staying asleep
Be sure to look at the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option recommended by the senior’s physician. And, remember that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the disease progresses – and vice versa.
CareWorks Health Services can also assist with caregivers in the home, particularly when sundowning symptoms are presenting, to help restore peace to evening hours. Contact us at 949-859-4700 to learn more.