Sundowning Tips to Give Caregivers a Rest
Oftentimes at the end of a day caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer's, instead of the stress winding down, it 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. Frustrations worsen as family members try to help keep the elderly adult comfortable and safe, while attempting to get some rest themselves.
One creative program provides a solution: overnight care that provides services specifically to individuals with sundowning issues. Described as a slumber party atmosphere, older persons take part in a complete variety of structured activities in a safe atmosphere: music and dancing, puzzles, films, preparing food, and more - delivering 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,” explains Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.
However, there are several other sundowning tips one can take to try to restore healthy sleep patterns for those with Alzheimer's.
- Make sure the person with Alzheimer's is exercising every day, early in the 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.
- Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom and use a softly lit nightlight.
- Have the senior avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
- 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.
The physician may also want to try particular medications if none of the non-drug approaches are helping, including:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Certain antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are associated with an increase of stroke and even death in those with dementia - so proceed with caution)
- Prescription drugs to aid in falling and staying asleep
Make sure to look at the risks vs. benefits of any sundowning treatment option proposed by the senior’s medical doctor. And, keep in mind that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the condition progresses - and vice versa.
Independence-4-Seniors Home Care in the Chicago area can also assist with overnight caregivers in the home to help restore peace to evening hours. Contact us at (630) 323-4665 to learn more.
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