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Alzheimer's Disease: 3 Tips for Handling Sundowning

Alzheimer's Disease: 3 Tips for Handling Sundowning

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Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be incredibly difficult on many levels. Although it is a complicated illness, sometimes the best way to tackle things is one symptom at a time. One aspect of dementia that you may struggle with is called “sundowning.” It’s also referred to as sundown syndrome or late day confusion.

How can you help your loved one cope with sundowning symptoms? Check out this list of dos and don’ts and learn about products that can help.

What is Sundowning?

The fading light as the day ends can trigger anxiety, restlessness, mood swings, and more in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and some types of dementia.

Why Does Sundowning Occur?

There are several schools of thought when it comes to the reasoning behind sundowning. As Alzheimer’s disease research continues, doctors may come to a consensus on the cause or combination of causes.

  • It may occur at this time of day as the accumulation of sensory stimulation from the day mounts. As the day ends, all of this may become overwhelming and individuals may hit their limit.
  • It may occur due to certain hormonal imbalances that occur in the evening and night.
  • It may occur from the inability to process fatigue.
  • It may occur due to anxiety or fear of the dark.

What Can You Do to Help Your Loved One with Sundowning?

Do:

  • Set a routine for them, including when they wake and go to sleep, mealtimes, and more
  • Reassure them when they are frightened
  • Stay calm yourself
  • Limit things that may make sleep difficult like caffeine or alcohol
  • Minimize triggers that make the symptoms worse, whether that is watching TV or certain foods
  • Maximize activity early in the day and minimize napping
  • Limit their sensory stimulation, especially close to bedtime and in the room where they sleep
  • Play calming music and give them a massage (or find a masseuse)
  • Hug them
  • Experiment with acupuncture, vitamins, and supplements while consulting with a doctor

Don’t:

  • Allow them to exercise within four hours of bedtime
  • Argue with your loved one
  • Hold them back if they want or need to move around and pace

Three Products That Can Help People with Sundowning

Light Exposure

Try adjusting your loved one’s level of light exposure. There are some experts who think that sundowning works a bit like seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This means that since hormones and body clocks are regulated by exposure to light, things can start to fall apart when there is a lack of light or a limited amount of it.

Regular exposure to sunlight isn’t always possible due to the season, where you live, or the mobility of your loved one. Try this therapeutic light lamp instead so your loved one gets the light they need. It can have massive benefits and it’s mobile.

As it gets darker in the evening, it may also help to turn on more indoor lights. Make this a part of the daily routine.

Essential Oils

Essential oils may seem trendy now, but people have been using them for thousands of years because of their therapeutic benefits. Oils can have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Different oils do different things and your loved one may respond better to certain fragrances. For a calming effect, try lavender, ylang-ylang, blue tansy, chamomile, or frankincense. On the other hand, you can also use oils to help wake your loved one and regulate their schedule and body clock. Try any citrus essential oil – lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, or a blend – or others like jasmine, peppermint, or rosemary.

It can be soothing to have essential oils constantly diffusing in the home. Just choose the type of oil based on the type of day. Or your loved one may respond to a few drops on a cotton ball beneath their nose. You can even add some drops to a carrier oil, like coconut oil, to give them a massage. There is a whole world of essential oils to explore!

Distractions

As the sun goes down and the anxiety starts, try simply distracting your loved one. For some, the television or music may do the trick. For others, this could make the symptoms worse. Be aware of what soothes them and what upsets them. Then, lean into those soothing things and use them as the day ends.

These companion pets are designed to bring the comfort and companionship of an actual pet without all the extra work that would fall to you. The fur is realistic and their movements are lifelike. There is a reason therapy dogs visit nursing homes. You can take advantage of those same benefits with this product while putting a smile on your loved one’s face.

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site, including text, graphics, images and other material, are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.