Many family members who provide in home care for senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s witness troublesome times in the evening. They notice their senior is more agitated and his or her behavior more challenging. This is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s or other dementia related conditions and is known as “sundowning.” Symptoms that a caretaker may notice include, “repetitive behaviors or speech, pacing, restlessness, wandering, disorientation to time and place, and agitation or aggression towards others.” (source)
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “as many as 20 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s will experience increased confusion, anxiety and agitation beginning late in the day. Others may experience changes in their sleep schedule and restlessness during the night.” (source) Some senior care experts say, however, that disturbances of sleep patterns are a reaction to the effects of sundowning not actually symptoms of it.
Many elder care sources offer tips that will help reduce some of these challenging symptoms; here are a few for family caregivers and companions/sitters to employ.
- Include daily activity in full sunlight to help reset the clock.
- Schedule most outings or activities in the morning.
- Discourage napping during the day to encourage sleeping at night
- Limit intake of sugar and caffeine in the evening hours.
- Use a nightlight, especially in hallways, to help reduce agitation from the perceived unfamiliarity of the surroundings.
- Keep familiar items nearby at home (which includes independent or assisting living community or nursing home) or in a hospital. Caregivers can set up photographs, books and possibly a radio nearby.
- Create a calm atmosphere with quiet activities in the evening.
When providing senior care at home, it will help to remember most of us grew up in a culture that ends each day with a flurry of activity: making dinner, doing household chores, helping or doing homework, finishing work for the day, and preparing for bed. If a senior loved one is “left with little to do at a time that might have been one of their busiest” (source) it often produces an internal chaos. Implementing just a few of the senior care items we’ve collected here will help the end of the day go more smoothly for the senior adult as well as the family caregiver and companion/sitter or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).