Sometimes when a person develops Alzheimer’s, a side syndrome is “sundowning.” Sundowning happens as dusk descends, and it lasts into the night. With it your senior becomes more and more agitated. Sundowning seems to peak in the middle stages of the disease of Alzheimer’s and then decreases as the disease gets worse. So what can you do to keep your family member from becoming restless and up pacing all night?
Well, first as background, it’s important to know that the changes which occur in memory and behavior with Alzheimer’s can affect your senior’s sleeping pattern. Because of the sleep pattern disturbance, this then can lead to behavior changes too. Some factors which may help to contribute sundowning are the following:
- If your senior is suffering from end of the day exhaustion which can be both mental and physical.
- If his or her internal body clock is out of sync. This can cause a biological mix up between day and night.
- If the lighting in the rooms is reduced so that it increases the appearance of shadows which will cause your senior to see something that isn’t there and become afraid and confused.
- If you are exhausted and stressed, and your body language shows it; then your loved one will act out to your stress.
- Sometimes when your loved one has a dream and becomes disoriented because he or she can’t separate reality from the dream.
- Your senior may need less sleep which happens sometimes to older adults.
What can you do to calm your family member then?
- If your family member is awake and seems to be upset, approach your loved one in a manner that is calming. Ask if there is something which he or she needs that you can get.
- You can remind him or her of the time gently. Avoid getting into an argument here. Reassure your loved one that everything is fine but don’t use physical restraint. If your senior is pacing, allow him or her to do so but with you in the room.
- Keep the home well lit during the evening and make sure there is adequate light where your senior goes. Adequate lighting can help to reduce your loved one’s sundowning as the disorder tends to increases because of the disorientation which darkness can bring.
- Make sure his or her sleeping environment is peaceful, safe and comfortable. The temperature should be at comfortable level, nightlights put in, door and window locks may need to be installed too. You can also install door sensors, window locks and motion detectors which can alert family members if your loved one is trying to leave the home.
- You can plan more active days, but don’t exhaust you loved one. Also adhere to a regular schedule of waking up and going to bed; serve large lunches and smaller dinners and restrict sweets and caffeine consumption to earlier in the day.
A loved one who does suffer from sundowners can be guided to a more restful night’s sleep. It takes some work and patience on your end and cooperation on your senior’s part, but a good night’s sleep is possible.
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