Those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease know that as the day winds down, the stressors 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. Concerns worsen as members of the family try to keep the elderly adult comfortable and safe, while attempting to obtain some rest themselves. However, there are multiple methods of help that exist to help you and your senior loved one deal with sundowning behavior.
One particular program provides a solution: overnight care that provides services specifically to those with sundowning concerns. Described as a slumber party setting, aging adults engage in a complete selection of structured activities in a protected environment: music and dancing, puzzles, movies, food preparation, and more – delivering family caregivers a much appreciated opportunity to rest 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.
There are, however, a number of other measures to try to restore healthy sleep patterns for seniors:
- Try a regular daily morning exercise routine with the senior.
- Be sure to let the person have exposure to morning sunlight.
- Adhere to a set routine for bedtime, wake-up time, and meals.
- Use a softly lit nightlight at nighttime and keep the bedroom a comfortable temperature.
- Have the senior avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
- Encourage the person with Alzheimer’s to get out of bed if he or she is unable to sleep and is restless. This will allow the bed to be seen as a place of rest only.
- Find calming, quiet activities to do together during wakeful times, but avoid watching television.
There are a number of different medications that the doctor may prescribe if the alternative methods are no longer working, such as:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Certain antipsychotics (noting that some antipsychotics are linked to an increase of stroke and even death in those with dementia – so proceed with caution)
- Drugs to aide in falling and staying asleep
Make sure to look at the risks vs. benefits of any treatment option proposed by the senior’s physician. And, remember that a treatment plan that works now may not be as effective as the condition progresses – and vice versa.