For people caregiving for a family member with Alzheimer’s, as the day comes to a close, the caregiving stress can intensify. When a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease experiences sundowning – a condition where the person with Alzheimer’s becomes restless and agitated during the evening hours – it can be stressful for everyone involved. Concerns escalate as members of the family try to help keep the elderly adult calm and safe, while attempting to obtain some rest themselves.
One extraordinary program supplies a solution: overnight care that caters specifically to those with sundowning challenges. Described as a slumber party ambiance, seniors take part in a full array of structured activities in a protected atmosphere: music and dancing, puzzles, movies, meal preparation, and more – giving family care providers a much appreciated chance to sleep 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,” shares Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
However, there are several 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.
- Be sure to let the person have exposure to morning sunlight.
- Keep to a regular scheduled routine for bedtime, wake-up time and meals.
- At nighttime, use a softly lit nightlight and keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
- Remove caffeine and alcohol from the senior’s diet, and avoid nicotine as well.
- If the person with Alzheimer’s is restless or unable to sleep, encourage him or her to get out of bed. This way, the bed will be seen as a place for sleeping only.
- Avoid watching television, but find other quiet, calming activities for the senior to engage in during wakeful times.
There are also a variety of medications the doctor may want to try if none of the non-drug approaches help, including:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Certain antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are connected to an increase of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed carefully)
- Drugs to aide in falling and staying asleep
Be sure to examine the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option suggested 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.
Heaven at Home Senior Care can also help families in the Dallas area better deal with sundown syndrome with expert dementia home care. Our overnight caregivers in the home help restore peace to evening hours and allow both seniors and family caregivers to get the rest and comfort they need. Contact us to learn more.